A significant move for transparent property ownership
Author: Claire Byrne
Applies to: England and Wales
HM Land Registry has released data on property in England and Wales owned by UK and overseas companies. This is the latest move in plans to facilitate housing development.
What information is available?
The Commercial and Corporate Ownership Data and Overseas Companies Ownership Data will enable interested persons and organisations to establish the land interests of companies. The information is free of charge, although users must register for a licence to access it. The data includes land held by local authorities, LLPs housing associations, and other unincorporated associations.
The company's name, address and country of incorporation will be available, together with the price paid for a property, and the date on which the company was registered as owner of the property. It will be possible to ascertain whether the company owns the freehold interest in the property, or a leasehold interest, and an indicator of whether there are any additional proprietors.
This information is already in the public domain, but not in a collated format. There is a fee for obtaining the individual title registers that contain the information.
Why make this move?
This move is the first step towards the commitment in the Housing White Paper 'Fixing our broken housing market' to make data about land ownership, control and interests more readily available.
The government hopes that the data will help to identify land that may be suitable for housing, allow communities to take an active role in developing housing plans, and help new entrants to the house building market.
The Land Registry has announced that the change has been made in the interests of promoting economic development and financial stability, and also tax collection, law enforcement and national security.
This latest move complements the introduction in 2016 of PSC registers at Companies House by means of which it is possible to establish who has ultimate control over UK companies. Plans are afoot to extend this transparency to overseas companies owning land and property although we do not yet know when those proposals will take effect. The UK measures alone already make it much easier to establish who has true control of land that is in corporate ownership.
What is the future?
The Housing White Paper contains other measures which are of interest to property owners, and developers. Among these the government has announced the following plans:
- to consider how the Land Registry and Ordnance Survey can work together to release their combined information to developers and home buyers.
- that all land in England and Wales should be registered at the Land Registry by 2030, with publicly held land in areas of greatest housing need prioritised for registration by 2020. A list of all unregistered publicly held land should be available by April 2018.
- to make information about options and restrictive covenants available in order to create more transparency and competition in the house-building market. Options and restrictive covenants are usually protected by registration and so are already open to public inspection but this is at a cost and requires detailed examination of title registers. Options can also be protected by notice, in a way which does not require the document to be submitted to the Land Registry. Now the government will consult on ways in which a 'clear line of sight' can be provided setting out who owns, controls or has an interest in a piece of land.
- to move long-awaited reforms to the law relating to easements and covenants up the legislative agenda with the publication of a draft Bill.
The Land Registry also propose to release further data about property ownership over time.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.