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Buyer Beware: Land Registry Delays Could Impact Future Commercial Transactions

We are increasingly finding that delays at the Land Registry are causing concern for clients and in some cases, impacting on the completion of transactions. Even before COVID-19, clients were experiencing significant delays and these are expected to worsen over the coming months.

How long will I wait?

The current Land Registry backlog means that for any application that is more complex than the transfer of a single title from a seller to a purchaser (i.e. 1 City Premises sold from A to B), the registration of your transaction is likely to face significant delays of up to twelve months and in some cases more than that.

What are the implications of the delay for you as owner?

Upon acquiring a property, your solicitor should have taken steps to protect your interest and you should be registered as owner in the fullness of time. However, where these delays can have adverse implications is in connection with any plans you might have for a property going forward i.e. an onward sale, securing finance using the property or seeking to let the property. In these cases, while you will have acquired the property, the pending registration can make other parties reluctant to engage with you.

It is possible in certain cases, to write to the Land Registry and ask them to expedite your application. The Land Registry will do so if you can evidence that the delay is jeopardising a commercial transaction. However, this is not always possible and in some cases, an application simply has to “wait in the queue”. DJB recently had experience of a client who applied to register an acquisition out of part of a wider development site and attempted to expedite that application. The response from the Land Registry was that there were 8 applications that pre-dated the application in question and the Land Registry would only process applications in the date order of submission since each had its own priority.

What are the implications of the delay for you as a potential purchaser/funder/tenant?

As a potential purchaser, funder or tenant, a pending application by the owner does not represent evidence that the person who has lodged the application owns the property in question, merely that they have applied to become so. While there might be no compelling reason to doubt that they will, in time, be registered as the owner, you do not have that comfort while an application is pending.

In such a scenario, the best course of action is to speak with your legal adviser at an early stage in order to assess the risks. There may be steps that can be taken to mitigate risks, or structure the transaction in such a way as to ensure you are adequately protected.

If you think that you are likely to be impacted by these issues, then please contact Robin de Wreede and we would be happy to help you.

Robin de Wreede


T: +44 203 026 8294



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