Consumers are keen to move away from paper documents in conveyancing transactions, the chairman of HM Land Registry (HMLR) has warned.

Writing in the HMLR’s annual report, Michael Mire said the plan now was to create a “truly digital register” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are still too many paper-based processes in conveyancing compared with other markets,” he added. “This has been tolerated by consumers up until now, but the potential threat of a future outbreak will change those expectations. I think those not yet embracing digital technology in the sector will change the way they work and the current early adopters will want greater adoption, integration and a greater reduction in physical steps.”

The report stressed the pandemic had accelerated HMLR’s digital plans – in particular relating to identity and digital signatures.

Andrew Trigg, HMLR’s acting director of digital, data and technology, said: “We have been trialling our new digital registration service with some of our customers. Ready for launch in the summer, it will enable customers to submit forms using digital fields that will validate the information they enter before it is submitted to us.

“Not only does this reduce the need for paper, speeding up the process for our customers, but it also ensures data quality standards are applied up front.”

Mr Trigg added: “We introduced robotic processing last year, using it initially to send reminder letters to customers. We are now using it to speed up casework. Our robots now examine more than 25,000 applications per week to check whether any other corresponding applications for the same land or property already exist in the system.

“We are testing how artificial intelligence can further reduce time-consuming manual tasks, with some promising early results. These steps all form part of a completely new application processing system to replace the outdated systems our registration experts currently use, enabling them to be more productive.”