Wider use of unique property reference numbers in the private sector can facilitate the transfer of ownership and provide benefits to public authorities, writes Gayle Gander, Marketing Manager, GeoPlace
It is in the public sector’s interest that the real estate industry operates efficiently, with a reliable collection of property datasets that can be easily compared and queried as part of its regulatory function.
The Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) should be a key part of these datasets, helping to identify individual addresses and bring together relevant information for each. This is a reason to advocate for a wider recognition and use of the identifier throughout the real estate sector.
UPRNs, assigned by local authorities and managed nationally by GeoPlace, provide a unique identifier for each addressable location in the country. While the public sector has been appointed for use in geographic location identification systems, there is still work to be done to encourage real estate companies, lawyers, builders and those who provide relevant legal and financial services to include them in their own databases .
Housing Minister Christopher Pincher MP recently declared his support for UPRNs at GeoPlace’s annual conference, saying that widespread adoption could remove many barriers to progress in the housing sector as they make processes simpler and more agile. He pointed out that they could take over the digital sharing of important information such as the size of the plot, boundaries and the number of former owners.
There is a growing awareness in the real estate industry that they can make the transaction process more efficient and transparent, providing a smoother real estate market and – as noted by the Conveyancing Information Executive (CIE) in its UPRN white paper – increase the number of transactions. Beyond helping companies in the sector, this can bring benefits to public authorities interested in its operation.
Among them is the ability to perform searches, identify owners or residents and all legal terms on a property instantly rather than the days it takes when databases do not have a common identifier. . In a recently published white paper, UPRN: What’s in a number?, the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) said that all stakeholders – including mortgage appraisers and lenders, the legal profession, real estate agents, home buyers, tenants and homeowners buildings – have everything to gain.
Tracking individual addresses through UPRN provides the ability to connect all data sets relating to a particular home to speed up and streamline the entire property lifecycle. The universal adoption of UPRN has clear benefits of clarity and efficiency that could have a positive impact on building safety.
UPRNs can contribute to authorities’ efforts to support public safety by ensuring compliance with building and fire safety regulations. One of the outcomes of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 was a decision to develop building safety records by the Health and Safety Executive. They would include data such as original design specifications and coating certificates taken from a range of datasets, which may be easier to identify and relate to other datasets if they include all of them. ‘UPRN of a property.
Other purposes for which it might be valuable relate to planning issues. The CIE highlighted the potential of UPRN to identify risk to properties, and possibly the environment at large, from flooding, soil stability, proximity to landfills, contaminated land and facilities. energy and infrastructure.
They can also support the real estate sector by ensuring that companies are aware of the UPRN and are able to rely on data from sources such as brownfield registers and flood risk datasets. to consider the prospects and risks of any redevelopment, sale or purchase. This can play an important role in supporting local economies and the appropriate use of land.
Local authorities might also find this useful in keeping track of dishonest private landlords, with the ability to match their records to others who might identify those who cut corners on building standards or expose tenants to health risks. . As the The Rental Industry Council highlighted, there is an opportunity to work on the concept of cascading risk, where if they spot an unregistered landlord, it is more likely that they will not perform essential repairs and safety checks.
They can check if a landlord has an HMO (multiple occupancy housing) license and cross-check the details to identify signs of possible fraud around the use of a property.
There is also the potential for increased sales of UPRN-backed property to provide more money from property tax to stamp duty.
They could also be used in the compilation of property logbooks as a source of reference in the processes of property transfer, rental, renovation and other processes. This would add an additional layer to the information available to authorities to fulfill their responsibilities.
All of this demonstrates that UPRNs can fuel a more positive relationship between the public and real estate sectors, helping to create more stable and healthy environments for their communities.
Fortunately, the cause has been taken up by influential bodies in the real estate sector. The Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Lettings Industry Council, Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and CIE are now advocating for wider use of UPRNs.
This comes from a growing recognition that the industry itself can benefit from figures supporting more efficient processes in the exchange and investigation of properties; and that responsible companies on the ground should allow public authorities to better manage their regulatory responsibilities.
Representatives from some of the organizations mentioned above, as well as Lawrence Hopper, Deputy Director of Digital Policy at MHCLG, participated in a recent GeoPlace webinar focused on the importance of UPRNs to the real estate industry. It provides an industry perspective on their importance and how they can contribute to a more effective and successful relationship between real estate professionals and the public sector.
You can watch the full webinar here and read a review of the event here. It’s well worth the time of anyone working on location data or who recognizes its potential to transform the real estate industry.
Image from iStock, anyberkut