The Panel to receive an overview of the Land Charges function from the Legal Services Manager, Diane Milton and the Land Charges Manager, David Caldwell.
The Panel had invited Diane Milton (Legal Services Manager) and David Caldwell (Local Land Charges Manager) to the meeting to provide an overview of the Local Land Charges function. Members noted the definition of Land Charges “obligations, restrictions or prohibition on a parcel of land that were binding on successive owners”. Members had also been provided with a list of the legislation that covered Local Land Charges and a glossary of jargon that could be referred back to.
The Local Land Charges (LLC) register had been made up of twelve parts and was now an electronic database. This had enabled an automatic search facility that included spatial extent, along with unique property reference numbers (UPRN), which allowed all Council systems to communicate without officer intervention.
The Local Land Charges System environment was described to Members and was split into three areas: back office, front office and market. It was noted that the front office’s Official Local Land Charges Search was in direct competition with personal search companies.
The Panel was informed of the different search forms used; LLC1 and CON29(R) and CON29(O). The LLC1 had been the official certificate of search and it was noted that it had been a statutory request for a local authority to search the LLC register for entries affecting a property and to provide a schedule of registrations and a certificate signed by the ‘proper officer’ stating how many LLC registrations had affected the land. The CON29(R) Required Enquiries form was a non-statutory form that had consisted of an agreed set of questions, which had been created by the Law Society, to be answered by local authorities. The CON29(O) Optional Enquiries form covered a number of areas including public paths and byways, advertisements and parks and countryside. It was heard that the LLC team had worked with a number of other Council departments during the process of preparing responses.
The Panel was shown search fees that were charged by neighbouring authorities, these ranged between £90 – £171.50 as search fees were unregulated and were set by each local authority on a cost recovery basis. It was heard that the annual net should be placed in the LLC reserve so that over a period of three consecutive financial years the total income from charges and recharges should not exceed the total costs of granting access to property records. Members were shown a graph of the LLC income between 2005 – 2014. It highlighted the competition between personal search companies as there had been a drop in income when these companies had started to carry out searches. However, it was noted that the Council’s income had started to increase again.
The Panel was advised that regulations had enabled authorities to charge a fee for personal searches of the LLC Register. However, this had been revoked in August, 2010 as the regulations had been found to be incompatible with the Environmental Information Regulations, 2004. This had resulted in a number of legal actions taking place that had aimed to recover fees paid by personal searchers between 2005-2010. It was noted that the defence had been coordinated through the Local Government Association. The claims had been settled in 2015 by agreement reached through alternative dispute resolution.
It was explained that there were plans for the LLC register to transfer from local authorities to the Land Registry as part of the Infrastructure Act 2015. This would result in the Land Registry providing registration and local search services while local authorities would continue to collect and update information in the register and answer CON29 enquiries. Members noted that preparations for the transfer were underway and this was expected to take effect in late 2017 with the process being completed by 2023.
The Panel NOTED the presentation.