The problems with - Transparency and Competition: A call for evidence on data on land control

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Article

21 October, 2020

In its consultation paper - 'Transparency and Competition: A call for evidence on data on land control' - the Government has set out its aims to increase competition in the housing market through transparency in property transactions, with the hope of encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to enter the housing market.

PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT SETUP

Currently, information on the ownership of registered land is recorded at HM Land Registry (HMLR) in relation to land ownership, mortgages, and property rights. There are numerous contractual arrangements however, that may not be available for inspection at HMLR which could be important considerations for companies entering the house building market, including: -

  • Pre-emption rights: where the landowner has granted a prospective buyer a first right to purchase and develop the land.
  • Option agreements: where the landowner cannot sell the land to other parties whilst a developer is considering the commercial viability of the purchase.
  • Conditional contracts: where a developer is not bound to purchase the land unless certain conditions are satisfied, most commonly being whether they are able to obtain planning permission.

PROPOSED REFORM

Therefore, the Government has proposed the formation of a new contractual controls data set. This data set would theoretically identify what land is subject to contractual controls; the beneficiaries of the controls and in what circumstances the controls can be exercised.

Currently, there is no proposed mandatory requirement to note these interests to HLMR, however a failure to record the interest would mean that the provisions would be not binding in the event of the land being sold to a third party. The hope is that this increased degree of transparency will make the process of identifying and understanding land affected by contractual arrangements less onerous for SME developers.

To minimise the burden on businesses having to arrange for this additional information to be noted at HMLR, the Government has proposed to change the current notice procedure to collect the added information.

WILL IT WORK?

On the one hand, the proposed level of transparency will allow SME developers to have a greater understanding of the land they are seeking to purchase, but on the other, it may be a cause of concern for developers having to disclose information they consider commercially sensitive. Furthermore, for larger businesses, it requires an extra administrative burden of having to certify in their accounts that the relevant interests are subject an agreed notice.

For more information contact Matthew Jones in our Commercial Property department via email or phone on 01254 222316. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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