SCOTLAND is home to the world’s oldest land register, the General Register of Sasines, which will celebrate its 400th birthday in 2017. This was world-leading at one time but as the Sasine register is based around descriptive deeds of title, it doesn’t meet with the demands of a contemporary setting where a digital map can more easily provide clarity of boundaries for owners and for those who need to know who owns what.
Since the introduction of the land register in 1979, Registers of Scotland (RoS) has been moving towards a more modern, digital, map-based system of land registration. Property usually moves on to the land register through a trigger event with a change in ownership being by far the most common cause. The land register will ultimately replace the Sasine register; so far 59 per cent of property titles across Scotland – around 27 per cent of the land mass – are on the register.
I believe that having a comprehensive register will be a national asset for Scotland as it will provide a clear picture of who owns what and where. It will benefit all land and property owners as once a property is on the register it provides clarity of ownership with a state-backed warranty of title. It will make transactions quicker, cheaper and easier.
In May 2014, Scottish ministers invited me to complete the land register by 2024 for private land and by 2019 for all publicly owned land. This is a challenging target but it’s achievable and I have set up a dedicated team to take forward the task within RoS. It’s early days, and I know that people are watching to see how quickly progress is made. Our focus just now is on awareness raising and promoting the benefits of a digitised, map-based register for landowners. So far the feedback has been largely positive.
To help achieve this target, we are encouraging property owners to voluntarily register their land rather than wait for a sale. My team are out and about meeting landowners and their professional representatives across Scotland and we’ve been in touch with every public body offering support in bringing forward voluntary applications. We’re looking at how we can improve our products and services to support voluntary applications to reduce costs, and Scottish ministers have implemented a 25 per cent discount for all voluntary registrations up to at least 2017.
We are also implementing a new trigger to help us complete the land register. From 1 April, 2016, property owners still on the Sasine register who wish to take on borrowing from a new lender will have to voluntarily register for the transaction to go ahead. RoS will make no charge for this.
I will also be using a new power called Keeper Induced Registration, or KIR. This was introduced through the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012 and allows me to register a title without an application from the owner.
Earlier this year, we carried out a number of pilots to work out what type of property KIR could be used for. The results showed that the safest titles for RoS to register by KIR are those within “research areas”. These are areas where RoS has identified the rights and burdens relevant to each property and are typically residential housing developments that contain high volumes of properties of a similar nature. I intend to use KIR for properties in these areas that have not yet come on through a sale.
The pilots concluded that complex, rural properties would be more complicated and time consuming for KIR as the information held by RoS is unlikely to be detailed enough to produce a title that could be fully warranted. I anticipate that KIR will be used towards the end of the timeframe to “mop up” areas of land that would not come on to the register by other means.
I know some people have been waiting for our approach to using KIR and we have now published a consultation running up to early January 2016. This will allow interested parties to have their say on our proposed approach. The full report is available to read on our website and we have asked a number of questions we’re keen to get views on. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in land registration to participate.
To take part in the KIR consultation please visit www.ros.gov.uk.