Land register completion gathers speed

Blog by Charles Keegan, Head of Land Register Completion at Registers of Scotland.

A castle, a farmer’s kitchen, a muddy field and a fishing port… These aren’t locations where you’d expect to find a Registers of Scotland staff member in the course of their work – until recently. As part of our land register completion programme, our advisors have been travelling the length and breadth of the country to speak to landowners, clocking up more than 22,000 miles so far.

Land register completion has been, and continues to be, a new learning curve for Registers of Scotland (RoS), not least because promoting voluntary registration means engaging with a whole range of new audiences.

Our voluntary registration advisors have spoken to the 200 biggest private landowners in Scotland, who between them own around a quarter of the county. The vast majority have been keen to move their titles onto the land register, and some of the largest landowners are in the process of preparing their applications.

We’ve also engaged with around 200 public sector organisations who, between them, own around 11 percent of Scotland’s land mass. We’ve already received applications for voluntary registration from local authorities, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Prison Service, the Ministry of Defence and many other organisations, with lots more in the pipeline.

In addition to the larger estates a good proportion of Scotland is in the hands of agricultural landowners. This summer we attended some of the biggest agricultural shows, in areas where land register coverage is low, to speak to farmers about the benefits of voluntary registration. We were at the Ayr Show in May and the Royal Highland Show in June, followed by the Perth Game Fair and the Turrif, Borders Union, Dumfries, Black Isle and Perth agricultural shows and the Moy game fair in July and August.

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We’ll also need to get business parks, out of town shopping centres, supermarkets and even local shops onto the land register in order to complete it. The commercial sector, while less significant in terms of land area, nevertheless holds a large number of property titles which are economically significant to Scotland, so we’ll  be talking to these businesses about the benefits of voluntary registration in the coming months.

No matter which property sector you look at, most landowners will need some help from professionals at some stage in the voluntary registration process. Talking to solicitors, surveyors and other professionals has been a central part of our land register completion work, and some of the best learning has taken place where landowners, their solicitors and RoS have worked collaboratively together on voluntary registration.

One of the great benefits of getting out and about and talking to people about land register completion is that we’ve been able to take on board their feedback and come up with new products and services to help people prepare their applications. Our plan assistance service, for example, interprets the information on the sasine register to prepare a plan suitable for registration, and highlights any problems in defining the property.

Voluntary registration is one of the three routes to completing the land register, particularly in expanding its land mass coverage. But many properties are unlikely to come onto the register either through voluntary registration or through triggers like a change of ownership or a standard security. The 2012 act gave the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland a new power known as keeper-induced registration (KIR), which allows her to move property titles from the sasine register to the land register without an application from the owner.

We’ve set up a KIR team, whose members have been working hard to determine how this new power can best be used to help us complete the land register. Following a number of pilot projects and a public consultation, we’re initially planning to use KIR in urban residential areas, mainly housing estates, where we already have extensive information about the content of titles.

Live KIR pilots will begin in three urban areas later in 2016, with a full roll-out starting next year. We’ll be engaging with the local conveyancing community, as well as citizens’ groups and elected representatives, before commencing KIR in each area. More information on KIR will be available on our website as the project progresses.

Just as a complete land register will benefit Scotland as a whole, achieving that goal will require close cooperation between a whole range of individuals and organisations. We’re keen to hear from anyone interested in discussing land register completion – please email us on LRCompletion@ros.gov.uk.

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