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Government backs unique property reference numbers to speed up sales

By Monidipa Fouzder >>

The government has confirmed that it wants to see unique property reference numbers (UPRN) ‘baked’ into the housing market to make the home buying and selling process more efficient.

Every unit of land and property is allocated a UPRN and geographic coordinates to ensure there is one true record for each address. Local authorities are required to maintain address registers. The address registers, including UPRNs, are submitted to GeoPlace, a central address database.

Housing minister Christopher Pincher told the GeoPlace annual conference last month that the widespread adoption of UPRNs across the private and social sector was fundamental to Boris Johnson’s pledge in March to ‘build back better’.  

Pincher said: ‘We know that the current buying and selling process is besieged by long and arduous and byzantine processes and inefficiencies. Estate agents and conveyancers often spend an exhaustive amount of time trying to collate all sorts of relevant information… When a buyer is found, old and dusty deeds, half-forgotten documents lying in solicitors’ safes or basements of town halls – they have got to be located, they’ve got to be shared, they’ve got to be pored over by both parties in great detail.’

UPRNs, he said, would change a ‘far too complicated, far too long’ home buying and selling system for the better. ‘The processes can be streamlined. Information like the number of previous owners, boundaries, that can all be shared digitally at the touch of a key helping to speed the whole house buying process along.’

The housing minister’s responsibilities include the Help to Buy scheme. He said: ‘With the challenges of the end of the present scheme, with the challenges of the pandemic, the conveyancing process ballooned for many, many people. Having the UPRN baked into the system, had we been able to take advantage of them more rapidly, would have helped to reduce that challenge. Crucially, they would also allow buyers to be privy to all relevant information before they purchase a property.’

Pincher’s comments will be welcomed by conveyancers who signed an open letter at the start of the year urging housing secretary Robert Jenrick to encourage the widespread adoption of UPRNs.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)