Registers of Scotland Digital Transformation: Next Steps

Consultation on digital services in the Land Register and improvements to the land registration application form.

Part 2: Digital application form and submission process

2.1 This section sets out our proposals for simplifying the application process for our new digital services. We also propose broadly to replicate that approach for traditional paper applications.

2.2 The Land Register Rules prescribe the content of the forms that are to be used for applications for registration (and other matters, such as advance notices, caveats, warranty and notification by prescriptive claimants). We will have to make changes to these rules to enable a digital application form to accompany/support the submission of a digital deed. Our intention is to follow the lead set by the digital discharge service and design our new services in such a way as the applicant is only asked for necessary information, more use is made of certification as opposed to yes/no answering and there is a much greater degree of synergy between the application and the associated deed.

2.3 For discharges, we have designed a digital service run and maintained by the keeper. Rather than simply registering a digital discharge, this service involves the keeper providing an end-to-end service for creation, execution and submission of the digital deed. We think this offers a number of benefits to customers that would not otherwise be realised. We have opened up current land register data to automatically populate key parts of the deed, saving time and reducing errors. We have provided a standardised deed template, to help to ensure that errors of form do not invalidate the deed (for example by omitting relevant operative clauses). We have built the system to work with current digital signature solutions on the basis that, currently, citizens don't generally have their own digital signature and there is no significant market for the provision of such signatures. Crucially, the system will also interact through what is termed an API (application programming interface). This will provide time-saving and risk-reduction benefits by giving users the facility to re-use information already held in their case management systems. This service approach also allows the keeper to receive data in a much more structured way and that can be used to automate parts of the registration process - meaning quicker service for customers. We intend to replicate this approach for dispositions and securities.

2.4 The aim is to streamline the experience for the user, whilst minimising the scope for an application to be rejected. The use of a digital form, allied to a digital deed prepared and submitted through a secure digital channel, will enable us to provide the applicant with increased confidence at the point of submission that the application meets the conditions of registration, while ultimately the drafting of dispositions would remain a matter for the solicitor. For instance, we can help to:

  • ensure the deed and any related form are consistent where appropriate;
  • ensure the right information is sought and provided; and
  • remove the need for signing the form because it will be completed by an accredited RoS user through an RoS channel.

2.5 We also propose to take the opportunity to streamline the paper form, mirroring the new digital form, to make it easier both for applicants to use and RoS to process. The proposed changes are also designed to optimise auto-population within both our eForms service, which supports paper applications, and also digital registration services by structuring the form in a way that allows information to be re-used. That will allow aspects of the form to be auto-filled from other information held by the keeper (for example, the keeper may hold information on the parties to a deed from an advance notice application). An application for the related deed would then, as a starting point, reuse that information but allow users to edit it if required.

2.6 The objective will be to simplify the form and, where possible, ask applicants to validate information already held by the keeper. Some examples of that approach are:

  • the requirement for a signed declaration should be removed from the digital form for the reasons explained above;
  • a signature will still be needed on the paper application form but will be placed prominently on the front page rather than the last page, highlighting the need for the form to be signed and reducing the significant number of applications rejected because the form has not been signed;
  • the question concerning 'certification in relation to links in title' frequently causes confusion and we believe this can be removed;
  • the questions relating to servitudes and burdens have given rise to difficulties in a significant proportion of cases. We propose to simplify and clarify these questions in various ways. For example, we will make it clear that the information required relates to pre-existing servitudes and not those being created in the deed submitted for application; and
  • we will redesign the form in such a way as to avoid scope for inconsistencies between the information provided in the application form and the position set out in the deeds.

2.7 A more general issue with the application form is that any material changes to it, or simply improving the form in the light of user experience, require subordinate legislation. That is a lengthy process that cannot realistically be undertaken on a regular basis.

2.8 A different approach would be not to prescribe the content of the application form in the Land Register Rules as at present. Instead, the keeper would publish the form on an administrative basis from time to time, following consultation and due notice of the changes, to obtain the information she needs for the purposes of enabling her to discharge her duties under the 2012 Act. That means that in future the application form could be changed administratively without the need for further secondary legislation.

2.9 The flexibility to adjust the application from time to time on an administrative basis would allow RoS to respond quickly to changing customer, business and technological needs and developments.

9. Do you agree with the main changes that we propose to make to the application form?

10. Are there any other changes you suggest we should make with a view to simplifying it and making it easier to follow?

11. Do you agree that instead of prescribing the content of the application form in the Land Register Rules, the keeper should publish the land registration application form on an administrative basis so that it can be amended from time to time, following consultation and due notice, without the need for changes to be made to the rules?

12. Do you agree that this approach should be adopted for both applications submitted on paper and applications prepared through a digital service provided by the keeper?

Registers of Scotland

30 November 2016


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