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Land Registry claims early blockchain success

12/07/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

HM Land Registry has claimed a significant step in the use of blockchain technology with the first simulation of the digital transfer of a real property.

LInks in chain

It has highlighted the move, in which a prototype blockchain model mirrored the paper based process for a house in Gillingham, Kent, as one of the digital advances in its annual report for 2018-19.

Land Registry had previously indicated its intention to explore the use of distributed ledger technology – otherwise known as blockchain – as part of its Digital Street programme.

It has been working with software firm Methods in utilising R3’s Corda blockchain platform, and joined up with conveyancing firms Mishcon de Reya and MyHomeMove, payment intermediary Shieldpay, digital identity provider Yoti and HM Revenue & Customs to build a proof of concept. It also created a mobile interface for the buyer and seller to complete their actions on mobile phones, such as verifying their identity and signing their agreements.

In early April it brought together the people involved in the transaction in Gillingham, which had already taken a lot longer than expected, and used the technology to give each part a current view of the transaction, any historical actions that had been taken, and actions that still need to take place before the transaction was complete.

Automated steps

Once each action had completed (such as drafting the sales agreement) the application automatically informed the next party it was their turn to act. It was also possible to automate actions including the transfer of funds and update of the Land Register.

The agency says the digital transaction was carried out successfully, and that it has been sufficiently confident to report on the work at a World Bank conference.

Other significant steps over the year in its digitisation programme have included the creation of the Local Land Charges service, which is gradually taking onboard more local authorities, and the implementation of the ‘Sign your mortgage deed’ service. The latter involves the borrower providing an online signature for the deed and was first used for a house in Rotherhithe, south-east London.

Mike Harlow, the acting chief executive and chief land registrar, said: “We want to be the world’s leading land registry to enable the property market in England and Wales to be the best it can be. We want to use the latest technology to help the market to be better informed, simpler, faster and cheaper.”

Image by Toni Lozano, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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