Successful launch of digital applications service

I’m continuing to send you regular updates to outline the measures that Registers of Scotland (RoS) are taking in response to the ongoing public health emergency resulting from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and how these measures have been helping your businesses and customers.  

The ongoing government guidance states that residential property transactions should, where possible, be postponed and rescheduled. For transactions that can’t be delayed, RoS has been working on a range of digital submission solutions to support the Scottish property market.

Advance notices

Our digital submission portal for advance notices went live on Monday 6 April 2020. This built on our interim process that was introduced to mitigate the impact of the temporary closure of the application record. It is working well and has been positively received by customers. We are receiving and successfully processing circa 400 advance notices per day.

As those of you who have used it will know, customers receive the usual email confirmation when their advance notice has been taken on to the system. However, you may have noticed that the language in this notification is slightly different to normal, to reflect the current provisions around how long an advance notice will last.

All advance notices will start with the usual 35 days’ duration, but the provisions in the emergency legislation that came into force on 6 April as part of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, will take effect when a new advance notice reaches 10 days to run (assuming the application record is still closed) so the advance notice will continue to be kept active beyond the usual 35 days, until 10 days after the application record reopens.

All current and re-enabled advance notices are now visible on ScotLIS.

For full details of how the digital solution for advance notices works and to watch a video demonstration, please visit the RoS website.

Digital applications

I am pleased to report that the portal for the submission of applications was opened for public beta use from Monday 27 April. It is operating so successfully we have been able to increase the amount of applications we are accepting.

We are currently accepting applications protected by advance notices with a start date up until 24 February 2020.

Whilst we are working through receiving and processing these applications, we will, in parallel, continue to offer a service to enable any applications which must proceed urgently, but which can’t settle under an advance notice and therefore need to be taken onto the application record in order for settlement to go ahead, to be taken on; so it remains the case that nothing urgent is precluded from settling during this catch-up period. To enquire about this please email customerservices@ros.gov.uk or phone 0800 169 9391

Please note there is no need to upload your application form with the deed to be registered. We have all of the information we need for registration from the alpha code you enter to begin the process

Improvements made to the service this week

  • All granters and applicants are now displayed on the review screen after entering the alpha code.
  • The matter reference for the application is now displayed on every page to provide assurance you are working on the correct submission.
  • The submission confirmation email has been updated to include deed type for each application.
  • An ‘are you sure?’ prompt to check before submission.

Coming soon

  • The ability to view uploaded documents prior to submission to ensure that the correct document has been uploaded.

A phased approach

As I explained in last week’s update, we agreed a proposed phased approach to the opening up of the digital application portal with the Law Society of Scotland.

Our phased approach involves working from the oldest advance notice in the system forwards, progressively opening up the portal to receive applications which have settled under an advance notice older than date X (and we will progressively move X forward until we have caught up) and where the paperwork for the application is available to be sent to us digitally.

We are very clear that opening up a digital portal is only for those applications which can be accessed and therefore sent to us digitally in a manner that complies with government guidance around lockdown, we are in no way wishing to put solicitors under any pressure to access paperwork that they cannot safely get to.

We are also clear that for any application paperwork which cannot be submitted digitally for whatever reason, the advance notice protection remains very much in place.  For this reason all the other measures will remain in place, so advance notices will remain extant and the process for settling happening under advance notices will very much still be operational.

This phased approach will enable us to be confident that we can manage the maximum volume of applications we could receive on any given day.

The successful implementation of the digital submissions portal is part of my determined effort to ensure that I am not reliant on access to physical buildings in order to keep the application record open, as I do not want to ever have to temporarily close the application record again.

Reopening the application record

The successful launch of a digital system to enable the submission of applications and live deeds will be a significant step towards our being able to formally reopen the application record.

The introduction of the digital submission service does not constitute or indicate the reopening of the application record. This will only happen when I am confident it is the right time to do so in consultation with the Law Society.

Law Society of Scotland

Throughout this process, we continue to work very closely with the Law Society to agree that our innovations, such as the digital solutions, are what their members and clients need to settle transactions.

Solicitors with any queries in respect of the Law Society guidance concerning the measures that are in place to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic should contact the Law Society’s Professional Practice team by email to discuss their case.

Other registers

If customers are seeking to lodge applications in any of our other registers for which they would normally submit paper applications, please phone RoS customer services on 0800 169 9391 and we will arrange for you to be advised on what options are open to you.

New register

The second part of the Register of Applications by Community Bodies to Buy Land (RoACBL) went live on Sunday April 26.

The RoACBL register contains applications by community bodies to buy land in order to bring it back into productive use for the benefit of the local community. I’m delighted that RoS has been entrusted with the guardianship of this register. It indicates that we remain at the forefront of transparency and ensuring that property and land are protected for the good of Scotland’s people.

The register consists of two parts the first is a register of information and documents relating to applications for the right to buy abandoned, neglected or detrimental land. It was launched on 27 June, 2018, the second part is a register of applications for the right to buy land for further sustainable development. It became live on 26 April, 2020. For further information visit the RoACBL register page.

Why it is important for RoS to remain open at this time

  • To process those essential house moves and commercial property transactions that are permitted to take place under the terms of the current Government regulations
  • To continue to process those transactions which don’t require physical moves, such as re-mortgages and some commercial property deals.

Supporting customers

In line with ongoing guidance from Government and NHS Scotland, our buildings remain closed and all RoS staff who are able to work from home continue to do so.

Our Customer Service colleagues continue to deliver expert support and advice. As of noon on Friday 24 April I am happy to confirm that we have resolved all enquiries that are within RoS’ control. A small number of unresolved cases outwith RoS’ control are for solicitors to resolve on behalf of their clients.

I would like to take the opportunity to emphasise that, for any transaction which needs to proceed and which is not covered by the provisions outlined above, or for any registration service which you need and which you believe you cannot currently access, please do continue to contact RoS Customer Services. In many cases they will be able to solve the problem, or for the more unusual issues they will be able to arrange for one of our senior advisors to speak to you, and we will work with you to find a resolution to the issue.

We continue to update the RoS website with the latest guidance.

Supporting you

A bespoke email address covid19enquiries@ros.gov.uk is available for general questions about RoS processes and procedures during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Please direct enquiries about specific property transactions and cases to:

Email: customerservices@ros.gov.uk
Phone: 0800 169 9391
Textphone: 0131 528 3836

If there is anything else you would like to bring to my attention during this period, please email FAO Jennifer Henderson: rossecretariat@ros.gov.uk.

Jennifer Henderson, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland

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