It was about this time last year that conveyancing offices across Scotland were anticipating a substantial change in the law on 8 December 2014. This was the implementation of the Land Registration et cetera (Scotland) Act 2012. It is fair to say that the portents one year ago were not great and were those concerns a reasonable expectation of what was to follow or did everything turn out better-than-expected?
Some elements of the new system have turned out well. However, those areas where concerns were envisaged have turned out to be problematic. Of greater alarm there have been many issues that were not considered to be a source of problems that have turned out to be very difficult.
The disappointment with the new regime can best be summarised by looking at one of its great selling points; this was that in what is called "first registration" the timescales for registration would reduce often from years to within four weeks.
Well, nearly one year on, we are told that the time for "first registration" is now not less than nine months. The problem is that the changes which were incorporated within the Act were predicated upon the new system working. Arguably, we now have the worst of both the old system and the new system and it is the public and solicitors that end up paying.
The public end up paying because the system doesn't work and more time is required on conveyancing which inevitably increase costs. It does not work for solicitors because they are exposed to claims and unpaid additional work on what appears to be an arbitrary basis in many situations.
The real question for those in authority is why such a large change in the system was not properly "stress tested". As is the way in the modern world it is doubtful that the failings of the new system will be properly accepted and that no responsibility will be taken for the most important part of the new regime resulting in (1) a performance 900% worse than anticipated and (2) real weaknesses in the system which go to the heart of the fundamental purpose of a registration system to protect property rights.