Another week of positive progress

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 and how these measures have been helping businesses and customers.  

Significant updates this week include:

  • Changes to statutory fees
  • Government signals an ease in lockdown measures on construction sector

Fees

As part of our review process, RoS this week notified customers of our intention to increase some of our statutory fees.

The Registers of Scotland (Fees) Order 2014 sets out the charges for our products and services. As of 5th October 2020 RoS will increase the fees charged in parts 1 – 4 of the Order by £10. This includes charges in relation to the following registers:

  • The Land Register
  • The Register of Sasines
  • The Chancery and Judicial Registers

Parts 5 – 7 of the Order will remain unchanged in October. This includes:

  • The Crofting Register
  • The Register of Community Interests in Land
  • Searching and copy services
  • Rejection fees

To make this change I intend to use the provisions set out at section 4 of the Order which authorises the Keeper to vary fees by up to £10 for a maximum period of two years. This modest increase will support RoS’ financial position and reduce the potential demands on the Scottish Government budget overall.

We have not changed our statutory fees since 2011 and, even with this small increase, the fees continue to remain low in relation to the overall costs of transacting on a property.

In due course I hope this action will be superseded by a full fee review including 12 weeks public consultation and affirmative procedure in the Scottish Parliament.

The potential for undertaking a fee review was highlighted in our 2020-2025 Corporate plan although the decision to implement a full fee review is a decision for Scottish Ministers. However, at the current time, I felt it would be expedient to use the small powers already within my remit rather than place additional demands upon our customers and the Parliament during the ongoing public health emergency.

The full announcement can be found on the RoS website.

EEFW Committee

As part of RoS’ accountability to Parliament, Janet Egdell, our Accountable Officer, and I will appear before the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday 16 June. We had been scheduled to make our annual appearance before the committee on 31 March but this was postponed in light of the Coronavirus crisis. I look forward to next week’s meeting as an opportunity to answer the committee’s questions about any matter relating to RoS activities, our response to the Covid-19 crisis and our Corporate Plan.

Scotland’s housing market

The Scottish Government’s guidance continues to state that, as part of ongoing measures to save lives and protect the NHS, residential property transactions in Scotland should, where possible, be postponed and rescheduled.

The First Minister this week announced that the construction industry in Scotland is able to move into the next stage of its reopening plan. Workers will now gradually be able to return to construction sites, while hand hygiene and social distancing measures are adhered to.

The government anticipates a relaxation of restrictions on housing moves in Phase 2 of the route map to ease lockdown restriction, a date for which is yet to be confirmed.

The successful implementation of RoS digital services will mean that we are ready to support the recovery of Scotland’s housing market once lockdown measures are eased.

In the meantime, for transactions that can’t be delayed, and can be completed while adhering to government guidance, RoS has delivered a range of digital submission solutions to support the Scottish property market.

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.

For transactions that can’t be delayed, and can be completed while adhering to government guidance, RoS has delivered a range of digital submission solutions to support the Scottish property market.

Advance notices

Our digital submission portal for advance notices has been operating successfully for two months.

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 service

We have also built and launched a portal for customers to submit actual applications to us.  This enables customers who have settled transactions using an advance notice to submit the actual application paperwork to us for recording.

I am pleased to report that since Wednesday 27 May, we are accepting digital submitted deeds whether or not they are preceded by an advance notice. We continually review our capacity to deal with the volume of applications received. Depending on volumes, we may limit the number of applications we can receive each day. If you attempt to submit an application and are unable to do so, please try again the next business day.

We are aware that some transactions for which there is an advance notice will not have gone ahead, and we are aware that the application paperwork for transactions which have gone ahead may not be physically available to the solicitor who needs to send it to us. Now that we have completed processing any applications that solicitors have been able to send us digitally that relate to these advance notices, we are open to any new applications that solicitors wish to send us (and indeed to receiving any remaining applications that do relate to an advance notice, as and when the solicitor is able to access them to send them to us).

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.

Register of Inhibitions and Register of Judgments

I am delighted to say that we are now able to accept digital submissions to the Register of Inhibitions (RoI) and Register of Judgments (RoJ) through our e-services portal. The successful launch of this public beta service follows a period of private beta testing with selected customers. We are grateful to customers for working with us on this project which is the latest example of how RoS is supporting Scotland’s property market at this challenging time.

Digital submissions to the RoI and RoJ have been underpinned by legislation introduced as part of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No2) Act 2020.

You can add permissions to these registers by managing your account.

If you don’t have an account, you can apply for access

Payment to the Register of Inhibitions and Register of Judgments are post-paid with invoices issued after registration occurs.

You can pay by BACS or Post-paid Direct Debit. We can’t accept cheques at this time.

For the latest information please visit the RoS website.

Register of Sasines

The members of my team who have made it possible for you to make digital submissions to the Register of Inhibitions and Register of Judgments have now turned their attention to developing a digital submissions process for applications to the sasines register.

We expect to start private beta testing before the end of this month (June 2020) ahead of a public beta launch for digital submissions to the Register of Sasines by week commencing 6 July 2020.

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.

Re-opening the application record

As Keeper of the Registers of Scotland I think it is important for me to clarify that the introduction of the digital submission service does not mean the application record is fully open. We are now accepting new applications, and as noted above, we are aware that solicitors may not yet have been able to retrieve and send us all existing application paperwork from their offices. We have therefore agreed with the Law Society of Scotland that I will not declare the application record fully reopen, which is the trigger point defined in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 for advance notices in the system that have not yet been replaced by an application to start to expire after 10 days, until we are all agreed that solicitors have had a sufficient opportunity to get all outstanding applications sent to us.

Normal emergency processes apply in the interim. If you have particularly complex applications then we would recommend you continue to speak to one of our senior advisors for guidance: email customerservices@ros.gov.uk or phone 0800 169 9391.

Additional support

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, 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. 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.

In addition, we are able to provide copy deeds to solicitors and in the event that a case can only be resolved by having the original deeds in hand then RoS has a process in place to make this happen.

Development Plan Approval Service

Following the First Minister’s announcement of a phased relaxation of lockdown restrictions, Register of Scotland’s Development Plan Approval service (DPA) is preparing to resume functionality. Work is being carried out to ensure DPA can be applied to existing and new development applications. The DPA service will then be available to support developers and solicitors in efforts to support the housing market over Phases 1-3.

Emergency legislation

The successful implementation of digital solutions to support customers during the Covid-19 pandemic has been supported by legislation introduced by the Scottish Government under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 and Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act.

Keeping you informed

I hope you find these weekly updates useful. We’ll be hosting a webinar in the coming weeks to answer your questions and give you further guidance as the government starts to ease lockdown measures. In the meantime, click here to see a Q&A I recorded recently for the Law Society of Scotland’s CPD membership.

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.

Supporting you

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 12 June 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.

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

If there are 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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