HM Land Registry & portfolio deals – an uneasy marriage

Land registration was first introduced to England and Wales by legislation in the late 1800s. This provided only for voluntary registration of title, and few titles were registered until 1897 when = registration of title was made compulsory in dealings with land in the County of London.

Since then, HM Land Registry has become the definitive place to visit for information on land holdings in England and Wales. It’s slowly improved over time, offering more open access, until its most recent iteration – the Land Registry Portal.

As any real estate lawyer will tell you, however, the operation of the portal does not exactly reflect the way in which modern transactional lawyers operate. For one or two properties, it does the job admirably, but for any more than that, it becomes a slightly laborious process to obtain and extract all the necessary information.

By way of example, one firm we work with needed to download 1,500 title documents to review on behalf of their client. They had three options before speaking to us:

  1. Ask a team of paralegals to sit there on the portal downloading documents for a number of days;
  2. Approach HM Land Registry directly, with an unknown timescale / fee associated with this service; or
  3. Pay a well know search provider a chunky service fee to go out and carry out this exercise for them.

None of these options were cost effective or hit their client deadline, and results were required faster. This particular firm were able to use Avail to carry out this exercise in under 2 minutes from logging in to downloading the documents. They simply pasted in 1,500 title numbers, and tapped download. Avail’s direct data feed into HM Land Registry has allowed us to bypass the flaws of the portal, and give our clients something they could not achieve easily before.

But how could this uneasy marriage be improved? HM Land Registry are making great strides forwards in opening up their data, and continue to release new data sets all the time. Avail’s integration could only be achieved by the Land Registry’s API, which in itself was designed to allow third party providers to innovate around the data the Land Registry holds.

As time passes, more third party products will tap into this resource, leading to greater innovation and more ways of interrogating this data. It’s inevitable that the Land Registry portal will be updated at some point, but until then there are a range of products that can help with portfolio deals / mass document analysis.

We’re proud that we get to work so closely with HM Land Registry on this, and can hopefully smooth over the struggles that lawyers with portfolio deals have faced for a long time.

Dom Conte
Head of Projects

Having run two high growth tech startups before practising as a senior real estate lawyer in the City for a number of years, Dom brings industry experience to his role heading up all artificial intelligence projects at Avail