Business as usual?
No, not quite. Apart from the difficulties around getting deeds signed in a time of lockdown and social distancing, the Registers have a concern that, after having closed the Land Register for nearly 5 weeks, the new system for online submission may be overwhelmed if the tap is turned fully on right away.
So, to reduce the flow, the Registers are limiting applications to the date of the corresponding Advance Notice - initially, only applications associated with Advance Notices received up to and including 19 February will be accepted. On 28 April, the Register will be open to receive applications associated with Advance Notices dated 20 February, and so on.
We won’t know for sure until the system is up and running, but the hope is that things operate smoothly and that the Registers can accelerate their timescales so as to catch up the backlog fairly quickly.". In the meantime, as previously reported, the Scottish Government's emergency Coronavirus legislation extends the protection offered under the Advance Notice to 10 working days after the Land Register re-opens for registration of the relevant deed. So, it would be possible to complete a transaction in the knowledge that the date for registration of your deed is approaching.
Does the on-line system mean we don't need to hold original signed deed?
No. Although the lawyers will only require to submit scans of deeds to the Registers, they will still need to hold the originals. The new system is essentially just a means of getting the application to the Registers while their office is closed. All other requirements for completing a transaction should be treated as operating as normal.
What about other Registers?
It is increasingly uncommon to have to record a new deed in the Sasine Register, although it happens occasionally if, for example, a deed imposing new burdens needs to be dual registered against an old Sasine title. The system for online submission of deeds does not, however, extend to the Sasine Register, which remains closed to new applications.
Again, the Books of Council & Session remain closed to new applications, so it is not currently possible for example to obtain official extract of any new leases which are completed, albeit that does not affect the validity of the lease itself.
Our key message
There will be some delays until the Land Register catches up on its backlog, so we would advise that Advance Notices are submitted as soon as possible now if your deal is approaching completion. That way, you will at least take your place in the queue. In the meantime, links to the guidance issued on this subject by the Registers of Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland are noted below.