Caution - Land Register fully open from October 2005

United Kingdom

In October 2003 changes in land registration law meant that any document that is now sent to the Land Registry is available for inspection by anyone who cares to apply for a copy. This applies to any document sent on or after 13 October 2003.

There are procedures which the property industry is now accustomed to whereby parties can apply to the Land Registry for any provisions which are considered to be prejudicial to be designated as an exempt information document ("EID") and to be blanked out from public view.

However, this is not the end of the story. The final phase of the Land Registry's move to make the registers open to public scrutiny takes place on 13 October 2005. From this date, any document submitted before 13 October 2003 will be open to general view. Again, it is possible to apply for specific parts to be protected by applying for the document to be an EID.

If you are concerned that information already held by the Land Registry is confidential then it will be necessary to make the appropriate application now to protect any commercially sensitive material. This is likely to affect leases and mortgages in particular as these were not available for general view before the changes made in 2003. However, the rules about even successful applications for EID status subsequently being overturned apply equally to pre 13th October 2003 so there will still be a risk of documents subsequently becoming publicly available.