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Digital Detectives – Accurate Information is the Key to Enforcement

As part of the government’s commitment to the digital economy, HM Land Registry made its data on land ownership in England and Wales publicly available last year. Nearly four million records from the Commercial and Corporate Ownership and Overseas Companies Ownership datasets became accessible for exploration, identifying the address, company’s name, price paid and country of incorporation, along with other useful information. Having purchased some complex geodata, BRE’s team of analysts have created programmes that convert the land titles to an address-based property ownership database, revealing the ownership of  9.7 million discrete residential addresses by commercial and corporate organisations in England. Ian Watson of BRE’s housing team writes.

There has recently been increasing availability of housing-related data at address level, for example Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) offering information on wall type and heating types, Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) data identifying addresses where tenant’s deposits are protected and Ordnance Survey data providing data metrics on the footprint and height of every address. BRE’s Housing and Health team were therefore eager to explore how this Land Registry data could sit alongside other datasets to enhance tenure information and help local authorities identify and take appropriate action against landlords who are often under the radar.

Undertaking housing stock modelling for a north west metropolitan borough council provided the perfect opportunity to assess how the Land Registry data could be used. Starting with an address list derived from their Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG), this and other local data was matched to addresses across the borough. After removing duplicates and addresses that could not be matched, 4,127 addresses were allocated private rented status from the raw TDS data. By cross referencing the Land Registry commercial land owners against the register of social providers, 16,738 addresses were identified as social rented. The local authority had records of 15,327 social rented properties, over 1,400 fewer than the Land Registry data identified. Interestingly, 65 addresses featuring on the TDS list were owned by social landlords. This therefore invites the question, are these flats? In which case perhaps the social landlord retains the freehold after the leasehold is purchased, and the leaseholder now rents them out privately? However, using Ordnance Survey data, only 16 of these addresses are flats. Therefore, perhaps there is a case for investigating sub-letting?

After removing those entries owned by social landlords, the next task was to determine which of the remaining entries were ground rent companies. 374 addresses were owned by six organisations containing ‘ground rent’ in the name. For the remaining list of companies, we carried out a simple internet check on those owning 10 or more addresses in the area, to see if there was any information on their activities. This revealed a further 43 organisations likely to be ground rent companies owning 4,612 addresses.

The new data therefore presents an opportunity to improve information on the tenure of individual properties, particularly those owned by social landlords, and also ground rent companies the majority of which are likely to be considered owner occupied. The press frequently report the plight of leasehold homeowners, who after purchasing a new home, often from a reputable developer, incur soaring ground rent fees (where the ground rent can double every 10 years and the leaseholder can be liable for fees when making changes to their home), making selling on the property and lending against it problematic. Therefore this facility can also  help identify a significant population at risk from becoming precarious homeowners.

The data from the 3.6 million land titles covering England and Wales shows that:

  • 3.6 million titles are owned by 631,664 different corporate and commercial bodies – such as limited companies, local authorities, and housing associations. Charities and trusts are excluded
  • The category owning the majority of titles is ‘Limited Company or Public Limited Company’ with 2.2 million.
  • The second biggest category of owner are councils with 607,447 titles.
  • ‘Corporate bodies’ own 254,476 titles. This is a catch-all category including organisations like the Church Commissioners, the Crown Estate, government departments, and power companies.
  • Limited liability partnerships own 85,804 titles
  • The remaining titles are owned by industrial and provident societies, housing associations, and various forms of community associations.


See the full article published and reproduced by permission of Environmental Health News Digital Detectives

You can contact Ian Watson via [email protected]