Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

Registration of Title

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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1306. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the arrangements in place in the Land Registry to process existing applications including those that were submitted prior to the lockdown; the estimated delays; the actions that can be taken or are being taken to minimise delays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6485/20]

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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1307. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the areas in which the Land Registry and the Property Registration Authority fall within the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; the arrangements in place that will allow both authorities to fulfil their roles; if particular difficulties have been identified that impede their functions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6486/20]

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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1308. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the details of the backlog and time delays in the processing of existing applications and providing copies of files in the Property Registration Authority; the status of an application (details supplied); the number of applications that remain to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6487/20]

Photo of Eoghan MurphyEoghan Murphy (Dublin Bay South, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1306 to 1308, inclusive, together.

The Property Registration Authority (PRA) is upscaling its operations in line with COVID-19 recovery planning.  As part of a phased approach to business continuity, the PRA is implementing a graduated increase in the level of applications processed for registration.  New work practices and projects are being successfully incorporated into this phased upscaling.  

On 30 March 2020, the PRA announced a temporary reduction in services, effective until 12 April, to protect its employees and the public and to play its part in the national effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, in response to the announcement by An Taoiseach on 28 March.  With the subsequent extension of COVID-19 restrictions until 5 May, the PRA reviewed its business continuity approach and announced a resumption of some services. In particular, from 14 April, the PRA began recording casework received up to 30 March on its system.  Moreover, from 20 April, the PRA resumed taking in applications for Land Registry and the Registry of Deeds.  In accordance with the national approach to tackling COVID-19, its public offices remained closed. However, it provided a copy instrument service for urgent property transaction closings. 

The gradual upscaling of services which began on 14 April 2020 continues to be reviewed  by the PRA in line with COVID-19 recovery planning, public health guidance and the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.  This will allow the PRA to continue to scale up its operations, carry out its statutory functions and ensure that a safe working environment is in place for its employees and members of the public in all its buildings in Dublin, Waterford and Roscommon. At the same time, in line with the national approach, remote working arrangements will continue in place to ensure that safe physical distancing can be maintained.

Due to the current legal prohibition on the use of digital signatures for property transactions/registrations, the PRA’s eRegistration service is limited to transactions that do not require a “wet signature” i.e. eDischarges (releases of mortgages) and eCharging Orders (Nursing Home scheme Charges). Accordingly, the majority of applications lodged in the PRA are paper-based legal deeds and documents. This creates challenges in rapidly enabling remote working for all case processing.  

In this regard, preparatory work is underway, led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, to provide the legal basis for the PRA to accept digitally signed documents for transactions involving registered land.

The number of transactions on hand in the PRA increased from 102,805 at end February to 113,866 at the end of April because of the COVID-19 restrictions.  The upscaling of operations and a steady decrease in the intake of applications now being experienced will see the level of cases on hand decreasing again.  Applications are being dealt with in order of priority.  However, urgent applications are being processed expeditiously, as requested, on a case by case basis.  As applications for registration are often complex, necessitating numerous legal queries, it is not possible to give representative timelines for dealing with cases. 

Copy Folios/Maps and Copy Instruments are being issued. Customers can apply for copies in the normal way through the landdirect portal.  Landdirect, eRegistration services and registration of deeds services continue to operate as normal.

In relation to any specific cases, arrangements have been put in place by all State bodies under the aegis of my Department to facilitate the provision of information directly to members of the Oireachtas.  Further information in relation to the specific case referred to may be obtained by contacting the specific e-mail address in respect of the PRA, reps@prai.ie.

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