Coronavirus (COVID-19): this week’s update from Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar Simon Hayes  

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To all HM Land Registry customers

I hope you are all keeping as safe and well as you can at this time.

I would like to thank all of you once again for your continued forbearance as we seek to deal with this difficult situation at HM Land Registry, and try to play our part in ensuring that vital property transactions can still continue during this period.

No doubt you will have all seen the latest guidance from the Prime Minister and the Housing Secretary, which has been supplemented with the additional cross-industry guidance yesterday - “Re-Opening the Home Moving Market Safely”.

While all the new guidance is designed to help re-start the housing market, this is clearly not yet a return to normality. Some activities which have had to stop can now restart, but of course it remains essential that we all continue to follow the necessary public health guidance.

How HM Land Registry is responding

Our aim throughout this period has been to do what we can to ensure that the most essential transactions can continue, and over time build back up to get as close as we can to our normal service delivery as possible across all our products, in order to support the recovery of the property market.

In order to meet this objective, while also playing our role in supporting the Government’s public health measures, we are focusing primarily on the delivery of services remotely and digitally wherever possible. We believe this is the best way we can serve you now, but also retain our flexibility and resilience in the event of any future changes as a result of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) alert system.

Having restored our priority services to a near normal service standard, we are now able to put more resource on to the rest of our applications and casework. By the end of the month it is my intention that all of our staff will have the equipment and software they need to carry out the full range of their day-to-day activities (from a current level of around 50-60%), and that we will begin to bring all of our services back to the levels our customers would expect.

We will be publishing more detailed information on each of our services soon but for now I appreciate your continued support as we work to increase our capacity as quickly as we can. 

Our latest policy and practice changes

We are all having to change how we work in the current circumstances, and your feedback continues to be central to how HM Land Registry is planning and adapting. I want to be able to prioritise and design our solutions in partnership with our customers as much as we can, as we all try to adjust to such an unpredictable set of circumstances. Two of the most regular questions that we have been receiving have been around how to verify identity and whether we will accept electronic signatures. We have now expanded the range of professionals that are able to verify identity as well as enabling them to do so via video call. And we now accept a form of electronic signature using the ‘Mercury signing approach’. I hope that you have all seen this news; full details can be found on the related news story on GOV.UK.

We have also extended the time limit for HM Land Registry portal customers to download documents for applications completed on or after 16 March. These documents are now available free of charge for 90 days from the day they were completed, instead of the usual 30 days. We hope this will help you and give more flexibility given some of the ways in which you and your teams are working.

Details on all changes are available on our coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance page on GOV.UK, along with links to further guidance and full details on how our services are currently impacted. We use this page to update on our continued improvements, so please do share this link with others who may find it useful.

Fraud risk 

Empty properties are at an increased risk of property fraud. If you or your customers have had to leave property empty while working from home, or during lockdown in another property, please make sure you take action to minimise your risk of property fraud. We have a dedicated page on fraud advice which you can add to your websites - This advice includes registering for our free Property Alert service. 

Contacting us  

We are now back to our normal standard for responding to emails sent to our Customer Support Centre, replying to all emails within five working days – and in most circumstances we are responding sooner than that. Almost two-thirds of our customers are now using the improved contact us form to get first time resolution. Please do use this form as your first port of call. This will help you find the information you need more quickly and it allows us to prioritise the most urgent cases and those that require a detailed response.

We are still looking urgently at how we can restore our Customer Support Centre telephone service, and I hope we can have something in place in the coming weeks. It may be a limited service at the start, so please do continue to utilise our other channels wherever possible. I will provide an update on this as soon as possible.

Please continue to contact us with specific queries via our contact form as your first point of contact. If you are a Business e-services customer, please use the application enquiry checker to check the status of your application or to request an expedition. 

Thank you once again for your patience.

Best wishes


Simon Hayes
Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar