Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Registers of Scotland have temporarily shut their offices and closed the Application Record for the registration of title to land in Scotland until further notice. This has understandably caused a great deal of disruption to all transactions imminently due to settle.
The Law Society of Scotland has recommended that parties attempt to reschedule settlements rather than settle during the closure of the Application Record. The Law Society worked with Registers and UK Finance to devise a temporary solution. This interim solution allows a limited number of transactions to go ahead and complete but certain essential steps must be in place before the interim measures can be used.
However, the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill ("the Bill") was formally introduced before the Scottish Parliament on 31 March 2020 and goes further by offering a digital solution for registration. The Bill aims to respond to the emergency situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and includes temporary measures to ensure that public services, business and consumers can still operate despite the new restrictions, including Registers of Scotland.
The Bill extends the protection provided by advance notices against competing deeds to 10 days after the Application Record opens again. The Bill also provides for the digital submission of applications for registration to the Registers of Scotland. Exactly how this is going to be achieved has yet to be confirmed but this and the extension of advance notices will allow registration of title to proceed and the property registers to continue to operate during the period when social distancing guidance is in place.
The Bill is expected to come into force at the beginning of next week. However, it could be few weeks until electronic registration is available. At the time of writing, we are yet to receive an update from Registers of Scotland with details as to how electronic submission will work and when it will be up and running.
Update - 7 April 2020
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on 6 April 2020 and the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 ("the Act") comes into force on 7 April 2020. As it stands, the Act is due to expire on 30 September 2020, but the Scottish Government has reserved the right to extend this date to 31 March 2021 and then again by a further six months to 30 September 2021.
If this could potentially affect you or should you wish to discuss this in more detail, please do get in touch with your usual Brodies contact.