My partner and I extended the low lease of our new flat, a process which took nearly two years and cost £25,000. Our solicitor submitted the documentation to the Land Registry. She informed us there was a backlog and that it should be registered within two months.
Five months later our fixed-rate mortgage was due to end so we found a new deal with a different lender, but it was rejected because Land Registry records still showed our property on a lease of less than 70 years. The Land Registry said that, in order to expedite the matter, we needed to send them a mortgage offer. But lenders will not give an offer on a property with a lease below 70 years. Instead, we sent the mortgage rejection letter, but it still insisted on an offer.
We approached another lender and asked for some documentation stating we were applying for a mortgage, and this was sent to the Land Registry. Three months on, we are no further forward and have had to pay three months of our mortgage at the variable rate due to Land Registry delays. NL, London
You are among hundreds of homeowners paying the price for Land Registry delays. Last year, sales have fallen through as solicitors reported delays of more than six months to register new titles and update leases. The non-ministerial government department cut staffing levels after the 2008 crash, and has struggled to meet demand as the housing market recovered.
As you found, it will only fast track an application for a lease extension within 10 days if you can prove that a mortgage offer has been made, which leaves those with registered leases of under 70 years in limbo.
The Land Registry admitted to the Observer that it missed its target for cases involving a new title creation – including lease extensions – over 2018-19, but insisted that 96% of requests were processed in time. “While we are experiencing delays for certain types of requests, customers can always ask us to expedite any request that may affect a pending transaction, or cause some other significant negative impact, which we will then aim to complete within 10 days,” it says.
Not that that was any use to you or others with short leases that disqualify them from mortgage offers. Thankfully, your extension has now been registered with an apology for the “inconvenience”. That “inconvenience” has left you £584 out of pocket during the time you were stuck on a variable rate mortgage.
The Land Registry says that the recruitment of 1,000 new staff, increased overtime and technology will be transforming its service.
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