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Property log books – registration documents for every house

Nigel Lewis looks at the progress, probability and possible shape, of the equivalent of vehicle registrations for every house in England.

Nigel Lewis

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During the run-up to last year’s General Election industry association Propertymark called for the Government to introduce digital logbooks for every property in the UK.

While this didn’t achieve the cut through that Boris’ £300m NHS bus slogan generated, it has prompted the industry and the government to act since the election.

Everyone involved agrees that they are backing logbooks because agents, Trading Standards, local authorities, conveyancers and sales progression staff will profit from using them.

Their claimed benefits include cutting down the number of failed property transactions in the housing market, preventing fraud, speeding up the process of property buying and selling and facilitating easier property licensing.

This would allow for a more interactive, streamlined and transparent process for both home buyers and sellers. Propertymark.

“This would allow for a more interactive, streamlined and transparent process for both home buyers and sellers,” says Propertymark. This chimes in nicely with the Government’s stated aim to improve the home moving process and officials have asked Kate Faulkner’s House Buying and Selling Group (HBSG) to look at how, and if, they can be introduced.

“At the moment the public isn’t crying out for this; it’s restricted to an industry push but consumers will eventually feel the benefits,” says Nigel Walley, Managing Director of logbook firm Chimni which has been a member of the HBSG for a year.

“But the big thing that sells property logbooks to everyone is the speed of process; agents can get properties to market quicker, and get sales completed quicker too and with less admin.”

Faster progression

Their advocates say logbooks would help standardise the property information used by conveyancers and speed up property sales for agents. “A home-owner could wander into an estate agency branch with all their property information already filled in rather than having to start from scratch every time,” says Walley.

“Also, National Trading Standards are trying to normalise the way that properties are described within portals in order to stop them being over ambitiously described, something a logbook could help solve.”

The Government would prefer that companies such as Chimni and its competitors do the heavy lifting because it means property logbooks can essentially be outsourced to third parties who would then regulate themselves, something the current government has at its ideological heart; smaller government.

The four companies involved in this innovation, which include Chimni, Etive, PIP and the National Deeds Depository have their work cut out to get the industry to use them. Walley says half that battle will be solved when the big agent CRMs start integrating logbooks and he says Chimni is close to adding its service to Reapit’s Partners programme.

Property number plates

But a kind of official property passport system does already exist, championed by The Lettings Industry Council and already in use within some parts of the property sector. These are Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) or property number plates, to give them their snappier title, which have already been assigned to every home in the UK and are used to link EPCs and Gas Safety Certificates to addresses too.

These work like a car number plate – linking different paperwork together in the same way MOTs and Road Tax are.

They are also part of an ongoing debate about ‘property MOTs’ which, although unpopular with landlords who see them as another way for the government to snoop on their activities and bring in licensing through the back door, are part of efforts to raise standards in the private rented sector.

“They will give tenants the peace of mind that their property has passed all of its checks and give local authorities the transparency they need for improved enforcement,” says Theresa Wallace, Chair of TLIC and also head of Savills’ lettings customer service team.

Hunters, which is a member of the 60-strong TLIC, has been also been one of the strong voices calling for a minimum homes standard and says a property MOT would go a long way towards achieving that. “Hunters is delighted to be conducting the field work on behalf of TLIC and the response we’ve received so far has been fantastic,” Hunters’ CEO said recently.

“We’ve outlined a 12 point checklist and have been speaking with landlords, tenants and also internal staff here at our HQ in York to ensure that we achieve a holistic understanding of how various stakeholders will be differently affected by it.”

August 4, 2020

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