The UK’s Land Registry is intent on trialling ‘blockchain’ – the technology made famous by electronic currency Bitcoin.
Before we go into what this means and how it’s supposed to work for the rest of us, it’s important to point out that conveyancers still send transfer documents by fax to the Land Registry. And the Land Registry has to transcribe these often hand-written amends to property titles.
The dark ages would not be too mild a summation of where the Land Registry is in terms of technology.
Each month the Land Registry issues corrections to the property prices it publishes for people to use as comparable house prices.
It’s not uncommon for the likes of Robert May to send a monthly email to the Land Registry correcting prices and addresses.
In response, Her Majesty’s Land Registry is searching for new board members and has published a detailed plan to trial ‘Digital Street’ records.
It hints at instant property title transfers that are safe and secure, as well as holding more granular data.
Part of this trial is exploring the use of blockchain.
The most simple way to explain blockchain is to compare it to what happens now: the Land Registry has all the information and you have to go through them to get it or make changes.
Blockchain stores a log of all changes on lots of ‘distributed’ computers. Proponents of this technology say it significantly reduces, if not eradicates, fraud.
Other countries, most notably Sweden, are also trialling the use of blockchain for cataloguing changes in land and property ownership records.
Here’s the job description for new HM Land Registry board members:
The most interesting thing about Land Registry using blockchain is that by definition there would be no more Land Registry.
We’d all have the register on all our computers.