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Land certificates: could this be yours?

1 November 03

Issues of accuracy taken up with the Keeper by the Conveyancing Committee and the Keeper’s response

by Conveyancing Committee, Keeper

While the Registers of Scotland are as diligent as they can be in the production of a land certificate, errors occasionally creep in. Recent ones which have been brought to the Committee’s attention include:

  1. An incorrect postcode or address.
  2. The title number is not consistent throughout the document.
  3. The plan does not show the boundaries correctly.
  4. The proprietorship section does not contain the correct details and designations.
  5. There is an unexpected exclusion of indemnity.
  6. All prior charges have not been discharged or ranking agreements have been incorrectly shown.
  7. Burdens are not correctly stated or irrelevant burdens have not been excluded.
  8. There are grammatical and spelling mistakes.

On many occasions these errors are minor and they can be easily corrected by contacting the Keeper as soon as possible so that any correction can be made.

Where the principal land certificate is sent to the lender a solicitor may wish to send a copy of the land certificate to the purchaser client.

Conveyancing Committee, Law Society of Scotland

Comment by the Keeper

I and my senior officials have recently had discussions with representatives of the Society through the Conveyancing Committee and the Joint Consultative Committee regarding the quality of land certificates and the type of error referred to in the foregoing note. The Society has relayed to me concerns expressed by solicitors regarding error rates in general and the specific types of inaccuracy noted above.

I have assured the Society, and would repeat that assurance to conveyancers in general, that I and my staff take the issue of quality seriously. I cannot promise to eliminate errors entirely, but I will continue to take steps to cut down the rate within the Agency.

Correction cases fall into two types. First, those historic cases where the error is reported some time after it has occurred. This would typically be the case where the error is noticed when the certificate of title is examined on the next sale or transaction. Secondly, current cases where it is notified virtually by return of post when the certificate is issued by the Agency. This type of error is obviously identified by a post-registration check by the submitting solicitor. The measures I have taken will, unfortunately, have no immediate effect on the rate of the former type of error, but they are effecting some improvement in incidents of the latter.

We have been tracking every case returned to us for correction over the last three years or so, both to discover what the overall error rate is and to identify the kinds of errors which are happening. In the year 2000-01 the error rate for current cases was 2.2%, but by 2002-03 it had reduced to 1.9%. This is a small reduction, but it does indicate things are moving in the right direction. Further confirmation can be found in the fact that in year 2000-01 97.6% of the errors notified to us related to current cases issued in that year. In 2002-03 that figure reduced to 90.1%.

Our latest customer survey also indicates that some improvements have been achieved. Five hundred telephone interviews were completed during November/ December 2002 by an independent survey company. This is something we have had done in each of the past five years in order to provide quantitative data on customer satisfaction. In response to questions about how customers viewed the quality of our product, the percentage who viewed it as good or excellent had risen from 38% in the survey published in January 2001 to 50% in that published in January 2003.

While I take some comfort from those figures that the Data Integrity and Data Amendment Units which I established to address the quality issue have had a positive effect, I recognise that more needs to be done. Accordingly I have instituted a number of new measures:

  1. The establishment of an Agency-wide plan to improve quality. Our business managers and team leaders now have set targets to eliminate various error types.
  2. Identified quality issues will be progressively targeted on a monthly/quarterly basis, with different prioritised error types selected each time. These errors will be identified by the Data Integrity Unit and confirmed by the Data Amendment Unit. These types of error will be specifically monitored over a three-month period to identify progress on the reduction of their incidence and appropriate feedback will be provided.
  3. A dedicated Quality Steering Group has been established and meets every month to direct the targeting of issues and monitor the results. They provide a report on progress to the Director of Production who is responsible for reporting onwards to the Operations Group and the Management Board. I, and my colleagues on the Management Board, will report progress to the Joint Consultative Committee and the Conveyancing Committee.

To make the progress we would like you to continue to notify us of errors you identify in land and charge certificates we return to you. To target our activities we need you to tell us where we are going wrong. This is an issue that cannot be resolved in an instant. Raising quality will be a progressive business, but I and my staff are committed to it. I will continue to report progress to the Joint Consultative Committee and the Conveyancing Committee on an ongoing basis.