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 your businesses and customers.
Significant updates this week include:
- Digital submissions to Register of Inhibitions and Register of Judgments
- Plans for digital submissions to Register of Sasines
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.
On Thursday (28 May) Phase 1 began of the government’s route map to easing lockdown restrictions. It includes planning for the construction sector to implement the first two phases in its restart plan with a decision to move to the second phase of the construction sector’s plan only after consulting with government to ensure it is safe to do so in line with public health advice.
The government anticipates a relaxation of restrictions on housing moves in Phase 2 of the route map, a date for which has not yet been confirmed.
RoS has been involved in the Home Moves in Scotland Restart and Recovery working group to advise government on the most effective and sustainable way to restart the property sector. The group includes stakeholders from across the industry, including developers, removers, estate agents, lenders and solicitors.
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.
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.
Our digital submission portal for advance notices has been operating successfully for two months.
As those of you who have used the system 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 (as per the process described above) 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0800 169 9391.
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 email@example.com 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.
The successful implementation of digital solutions to support customers during the Covid-19 pandemic has been supported by legislation introduced by the Scottish Government. We will be working with government colleagues and policy makers to explore how we can put in place an enduring solution for when the emergency legislation expires, to support the ongoing use of digital submissions.
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 I recorded a Q&A 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.
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 5 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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@example.com or 0800 169 9391.
If there is anything else you would like to bring to my attention during this period, please email FAO Jennifer Henderson: firstname.lastname@example.org.