In the government’s commitment to creating a digital economy, as of the 7th November 2017, HM Land Registry has made commercial ownership data completely free. The data includes, commercial ownership, corporate ownership and overseas companies’ ownership. So, how does all this work?
HM Land Registry holds all data on land or property in England and Wales where the legal owner is a UK corporation or an overseas company. The registry safeguards land and property ownership worth more than £4 trillion with over 25 million titles. In order to explain the magnitude of data with regard to commercial, corporate and overseas ownership it is necessary to look at how much data is actually available. In relation to these three areas only, there are over 3 million rows of data, including: addresses, the company’s name, price paid as well as other useful information.
By making the data free, HM Land Registry has removed existing cost barriers that have previously obstructed the accessibility of data. Citizens as well as big organisations will be able to look at the data, scrutinize the records and check information. The government’s decision to make the data free is an attempt to support the growth of the property technology sector (Proptech). With the move towards a more digitized economy, (already previously seen with digital mortgages) there is no surprise that more databases will be made available in due course; it is only a matter of time before we see a complete change in the way the government’s digital presence grows.
There may be questions as to why HM Land Registry has decided to open up more of its datasets across governmental departments and it is for the following reasons: to fuel economic development, ensure more efficient tax collection, improve law security, as well as national security, and lastly, to achieve financial stability.
A problem that should be considered is perhaps the public’s anxiety towards an openness of data but rest assured, HM Land Registry is committed to the security of its users. In order to gain access to the information you will have to complete a registration application. The data was released under licence and only when a party has registered can they read the report; this is to safeguard against possible fraud or misuse. The registry wants to protect users but also encourage a greater use of data. Once you have registered, HM Land Registry will contact you within one working day via email to confirm your registration.
The government is looking for innovation in the way it handles information. Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar, Graham Farrant said, ‘[Our ambition is to become] the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data.’ We are currently in a climate where digital innovation seems like the key for progress but is it? Only time will tell if the government’s plan for data sharing will help or hinder those companies and corporations it initially seeks to improve.