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

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Dear HM Land Registry customers

I hope you are all keeping well in these uncertain times. I wanted to bring you an update and provide some clarity on the current situation with our services.

Our services

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown began we have prioritised our services that made sure property transactions could continue, while getting our staff set up to work remotely on all outstanding applications to update entries or create new titles in the register.

I am pleased to tell you that all our people who can work remotely are equipped to do so. This has been a demanding task – transforming a wholly office-based organisation into one where only a handful of our people are working in our offices on tasks that cannot be carried out remotely. With nearly 6,000 people to equip, this has taken time and in the intervening period we continued to receive a high level of applications to update or change the register (albeit at a lower level than pre-coronavirus).

Prior to 23 March, we completed 95% of the 18,000 daily applications to update the register within five days. We are now processing more updates than we receive each day, but it will take some time to clear the backlog which built up in March, April and early May when we were unable to process significant numbers. We have been processing fewer register create applications (first registrations, transfers of part and first leases) during this period but we will be rebalancing our efforts and resources on to these cases.

We are also aware that the volume of applications received has fallen and that many of our customers are expecting a bounce back over the summer months. 

We were already reflecting on our priorities before the coronavirus struck, and we are taking the opportunity to take a step back and look at the level of service we provide across our different products. We will be reaching out to ask about all of our customers’ priorities and how they feel we should prioritise our work. We will then be reviewing how we manage all our services in line with what they tell us to make sure we are accurately meeting their needs and providing the best support possible to the market.

This may result in changes to some services. All decisions on this will be based on clear evidence that this is what our customers need. We will be sharing more about this in the coming months.

Expedites through Application Enquiry

Throughout the difficulties caused by coronavirus, we have maintained our commitment to expediting registration applications when there was a risk of real hardship. Our expedite service was always seen as critical as it enabled us to direct accurately our efforts to the most urgent cases.

Since lockdown, we have asked that customers with portal access use Application Enquiry to request expedition. Those who don’t have access can use our online contact form. However, we know a number of requests are coming in through the Reply to Requisition function on the portal. While we were able at first to process these requests, we can no longer do so. If any customers have made an expedition request through Reply to Requisition and not heard back, they will need to resubmit through Application Enquiry. This will enable us to ensure the most urgent cases receive our attention.

I would also encourage customers to continue to use Reply to Requisition to give us any additional information, or attach missing documentation, at any time during the course of an application.

Cancellation dates on expedited applications

While we have extended cancellation dates on all applications until further notice, we will need to start cancelling some applications to help process the most urgent cases. Where we have expedited an application and there is an application (or applications) in front of it with requisition points outstanding, we will consider cancellation of the application with an outstanding requisition, giving reasonable notice. This will help us to complete urgent expedited applications.

Contacting us

As always, our Contact HM Land Registry page has comprehensive help pages for most enquiries, including the latest information about the impact on our services. Alternatively, you can choose to ‘send us a message' which will be prioritised. Using our online contact form means we are able to provide a faster and more consistent response, getting back to you within five working days (often much sooner). I also know that many customers are now able to get through on our telephone lines. However do please keep in mind that we will only be able to respond to urgent calls and that we are still having to operate with a reduced service; our current opening times are 8am to 12 midday.

Thank you


Simon Hayes
Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar