Discharges done digitally

Blog by John King, Business development director at Registers of Scotland.

At RoS we process over 100,000 discharges each year in the land register. Re-mortgaging, house sales, and borrowers coming to the end of their mortgage terms all combine to make this the most common conveyancing deed we deal with, amounting to roughly 30 per cent of total registrations.

Yet, for a deed that’s so straightforward and common, the irritation factor for those directly involved is high; there’s currently much toing and froing between solicitor and lender and this can lead to delays in obtaining the discharge and in presenting it for registration. The days are largely gone when a discharge of an existing loan would be submitted for registration at the same time as, say, the accompanying sale of the mortgaged property. The submission lag can be weeks or months. And following registration, there’s then a further cycle of communication between ourselves and the solicitor, and the solicitor, the lender and the client.

Other jurisdictions have streamlined the process. England and Wales and, more recently, Ireland now have digital solutions that provide a more focussed and cost effective option for solicitors and lenders, as well as an option that significantly reduces the risk of fraud. It’s no surprise that the digital discharge route is now the norm in both jurisdictions.

We’ve been working with the Law Society and the Council of Mortgage Lenders to scope a new Scottish discharge system. This isn’t just a like for like replacement of our ARTL system whereby discharges can be registered on-line (ultimately, ARTL simply digitally replicates the paper process). Rather, it’s a digital solution based on a different set of interactions between the solicitor and lender. In essence, the new system would see the solicitor notify the lender of the need for a discharge, the lender would control the discharge process and submit the discharge to RoS, and we in turn would notify parties of the removal of the mortgage deed from the land register.

We’re in the midst of refining the digital process with solicitors and mortgage lenders, and aim to consult in spring 2016 on the subordinate legislation that would pave the way for an alternative digital discharge solution to be launched in the autumn. If you’d like to be part of that dialogue please contact Sarah Leighton in our user experience team at sarah.leighton@ros.gov.uk.

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