Positive progress

Blog post by Jennifer Henderson, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland.

I wrote to you last week to outline some measures that Registers of Scotland (RoS) had taken in response to the ongoing public health emergency resulting from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, and I want to update you on important developments that will affect some of your constituents.

I am pleased to report that a great deal of positive progress has been made this week to support those property transactions that have to take place during the ongoing health emergency.

The following measures have been introduced:

Digital solution

We are delighted to confirm that our new digital submission for advance notices solution will launch on Monday 6 April 2020. This builds on our interim process (see note below to explain how that has been working).

We will be accepting digital uploads of advance notices for First Registration (FR) and Transfers of Part (TP). The process for Dealings of Whole (DW) applications is already digital and remains the same. You will be able to complete and download your advance notice in the usual way, then upload and submit it to us via our beta service.

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

The digital solution has been developed in-house at RoS and tested by our User Experience (UX) panel of customers. As with all RoS product launches, the digital submission solution was designed in close collaboration with customers. The big difference with previous products is that given the current circumstances, we developed, tested and launched this product in just over a week. The response from the UX Panel and the Law Society of Scotland who have tested it has been universally positive. It provides an accessible and secure solution that enables transactions to take place during the Coronavirus outbreak.

We will continue to review the digital solution to see if it can become the basis for a permanent process.

Other transactions

A bespoke email address covid19enquiries@ros.gov.uk is available for general questions about processes and procedures during this time.

The ongoing advice from Government and NHS Scotland around the need for social distancing, will inevitably have an impact on the volume of residential property transactions taking place across Scotland in the coming months. However, we anticipate there will be ongoing activity across the commercial property sector as businesses react to the impact of Coronavirus.

Supporting home movers

Prior to the introduction of the digital submission portal, RoS had already agreed an interim process with the Law Society of Scotland and lenders, using the protection of an advance notice. This allowed urgent housing property transactions to go ahead. In addition, in the small number of cases where an advance notice wasn’t in place, and where individuals faced serious personal or financial hardship if they did not complete their transaction, we worked with solicitors to either add an advance notice to the register or found another way to resolve the issue, which allowed the home mover to complete their transaction.

As of noon on Friday 3 April I am happy to confirm that we have resolved all enquiries that are within RoS’ control.

Effective communications

RoS has been extremely proactive in the way it has kept property professionals and home movers updated with the latest information. Our website continues to be updated with guidance and answers to specific questions, and the publication of any significant new information is promoted across our social media channels.

Emergency legislation

On Wednesday evening the Scottish Parliament passed the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill 2020.

When it comes into force the Bill will automatically extend advance notices in the system so that the protection period runs until 10 days after the date the Keeper declares the Land Register and Register of Sasines are fully re-opened.

This includes hard copy notices submitted on or up to the 24 March (but only where the protected period was still running at that point) and any notice received while the Registers have been fully or partially closed since that date, as well as any new notices submitted after the legislation comes into force.

The Keeper will also have the powers to accept electronic copies of paper deeds (traditional documents) for registration on the Land Register and recording on the Register of Sasines, for example, a scanned image of a wet-signed deed submitted electronically.

We are working hard on developing a system to allow for this.

The Keeper will consult closely with the Law Society of Scotland (LSS) on the appropriate date for the register to be fully reopened. Updates will be made available on the website and social media channels.

The new legislation brings some flexibility to the advance notice process that will enable those transactions that have to take place during the ongoing health emergency to proceed.

Government guidance

On Tuesday, 31 March, the Scottish Government published its guidance for people buying or selling private residential homes in Scotland during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It advised people to delay moving to a new home while stay-at-home measures are in place. The Government recommended that in all circumstances, buyers and sellers should speak to their solicitor.

Law Society of Scotland

Throughout this process, we have worked closely with the Law Society of Scotland to agree that our innovations, such as the digital portal and interim measures, are what their members and clients need to settle transactions.

Solicitors with any queries in respect of the LSS guidance concerning the measures that are in place to mitigate the impact of the health emergency should contact the Law Society’ Professional Practice team by email.

Supporting business

These are very challenging times for everyone and you can be assured that the RoS team and I are doing all that we can to support your businesses and clients. Like many organisations we have had to adapt to home-based working and am pleased to confirm that the swift implementation of our business continuity plan, and the flexibility of my staff and our systems, means that we are able to continue to deliver our services.

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

The latest information for legal professionals and home movers can be found on the RoS website.

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