36. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delays in processing some transactions in the Land Registry; the reason more staff cannot be delegated to deal with the backlog which seems to take up to three or four years in some cases for persons trying to rectify their titles and ownerships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15536/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised that the Property Registration Authority which manages the Land Registry and Registry of Deeds expects to complete some 200,000 Land Registry transactions in 2017. Applications submitted that are fully in order for registration and that do not result in the raising of queries are dealt with in a very timely and efficient manner. In 2017 to date, in excess of 70% of cases in order for registration which do not require a change to the map or examination of title are completed within nine days or less, while more than 80% of such cases are dealt with within 14 days or less. Where a case is urgent and is brought to the attention of the PRA it will, in accordance with its customer service policy, deal with the matter expeditiously.
The PRA had some 99,959 transactions on hand as at end March 2017 which represents about six months' work. 22% of the transactions on hand are subject to query - such cases cannot therefore be completed until a satisfactory response is received. The PRA has indicated that there is a continuing high rate of rejection - these are transactions that have been received by the PRA but are not in order for registration and must be returned to the lodging party. In 2017 to date, there has been a rejection rate of 15%. Factors that may impact on the completion times may include investigation of title requirements, the completeness of the documentation presented, the need to raise additional queries and mapping requirements.
Certain applications, including First Registration applications, applications made under right-of-way by prescription and applications for registration based on long or adverse possession are legally complex and generally require various queries to be raised by the lodging party. In addition, notice must be served on all interested parties and appropriate time allowed for objections which can run for some time. The PRA must be fully satisfied that a case is fully grounded, the nature of the title proved and that all interested parties' concerns have been fully considered before registering a State guaranteed title. By their nature, such applications, of necessity and legislation, may take a long time to process.
Of the cases currently on hand, some 13% relate to First Registration applications. This is reflective of a large intake of such cases since the extension of compulsory first registration to the entire country in 2011. The PRA is addressing this particular area of concern through a number of mechanisms. Firstly, First Registration applications may be certified by a Solicitor in which case full examination of title is not necessary. In such cases a First Registration case is completed within three to four months. Secondly, PRA management has put in place an action plan including targeted resources and business process improvements in case management to deal with the First Registration arrear. I am advised that further options are being considered including the assigning of additional staff with specific skills and experience of investigation of title.
In addition to the measures specific to First Registration, outlined above, the PRA has put in place a number of initiatives to enhance its engagement with solicitors, who generally submit applications for registration. This includes a 'solicitor relationship project', where the PRA has established structures to assist certain solicitors with their applications in order to reduce the level of errors and therefore the length of time the process can take. The PRA has also developed a series of guides and videos for solicitors, again to help improve the quality of applications lodged - these are expected to go live on the PRA's website in Quarter 2 of 2017. Business process improvement training is being provided for staff in key areas, with a view to identifying and implementing more efficient processes. Staff training more generally has been enhanced to upskill the large number of new staff members in the organisation. These measures, allied to restructuring of the PRA and advances in the use of technology are expected to yield greater efficiency over time and are monitored closely by the Board of the Authority.