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

Given the Chancellor’s statement on stamp duty yesterday and the anticipated increase in activity, I wanted to give everyone a further update on the current position with HM Land Registry services.

As I have explained in previous communications, in the early stages of the lockdown we prioritised those services that are essential to property transactions. Since mid-May we have been bringing more of our teams back onto our remaining services, and balanced our resource across all application types.

I appreciate that our services are still not as fast as they were before the end of March, and I apologise for that. We are still working with fewer staff than were previously available, many of whom are working in sub-optimal circumstances. We are working on the applications that came into us first, starting with the oldest and working up to the current date. I am pleased to say we are now close to the point where all register update applications are returned to customers within 20 days.

We are constantly monitoring how many applications of each type are coming in, and listening to all customer feedback, to make sure our teams are working on the right cases so you face minimal disruption. In my last email I mentioned we were looking at the level of service we provide across all our different products. We will continue to talk to you to help us ensure we get this right, now and into the future.

In the meantime, if you have an application that could result in genuine hardship if it is further delayed, please do request an expedite through the Application Enquiry service in the HM Land Registry portal or through the contact form.

Improved contact

Our new Contact HM Land Registry page has comprehensive help pages for most enquiries, but it also allows you to send us a message. This helps us to provide a faster and more consistent response, getting back to you within five working days (often much sooner).

The customer support team’s phone lines have now reopened. However we are still having to operate with a reduced service – our current opening times are 8am to 12 midday. We hope to open up for the full day later this month.

Policy and practice changes

We have just released proposed practice guidance on electronic signatures and would welcome your feedback. We have also made the following changes to our processes on the basis of feedback received during the lockdown period. We have:

  • extended the list of professionals who can verify an applicant’s identity and enabled this to take place over video conference call;
  • started accepting deeds signed using the 'Mercury signing approach';
  • suspended cancellations on most requisitions until further notice;
  • extended the time you have to access your organisation’s PDFs on the portal;
  • stopped rejecting applications where identity evidence is not provided;
  • started accepting powers of attorney certified by legal executives;
  • sought to grant any request either to extend a notice period, or allow a further period for making an objection, for any reason related to the coronavirus; and
  • allowed most Land Charges applications to be made by email.

We want to continue to work with you to make sure we are moving in the right direction. We will continue to listen and make changes when and where we can. I am grateful for your support, and your patience, at this time.

Thank you

Simon Hayes
Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar