The property sales market came to a screeching halt on Tuesday with law firms all over Scotland unable to complete, or ‘settle’, transactions when the Land Registry was closed by the Registers of Scotland (RoS), their offices shut and staff sent home.
The Land Registry lists the owners of every bit of land and property in Scotland. Every time a property is bought or sold, the Land Register is updated when the ‘Sale Transfer of Title’ documents are processed.
The law is slowly adapting to the opportunities of the digital world, but there are still things that must be done physically rather than digitally. ‘Sale Transfer of Title’ documents have to be signed by real people with real pens. Witnesses must be present and able to sign the same piece of paper. These physically signed papers have to be posted to the Registers of Scotland for processing.
But if there is nobody in the office at the Registers of Scotland to open the post and process the forms, then the Land Registry cannot be updated.
The Registers of Scotland have indicated they are working on a digital solution which might allow the register to reopen. While we wish the Registers of Scotland every success, that is a big piece of work under normal circumstances and these aren’t normal circumstances. We have to be cautiously optimistic but brutally realistic with our clients – we will believe it when we see it.
The Registers of Scotland made a difficult decision in difficult times with the best of intentions. They are working with the Law Society of Scotland and others to create new procedures that will hopefully restart conveyancing across the country as soon as possible.
The Registers of Scotland are updating their website with new information as they have it.
We have been in contact with all of our clients who are affected to talk about what this means for them. We know this situation is adding a great deal of stress during an unbelievably stressful time.