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The case for property passports builds

Why the use of Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) could revolutionise the property industry Momentum continues to grow for the implementation of UPRNs across the residential property sector. UPRNs are the unique 12-digit number that is allocated to every address in the UK and that helps to identify and collate data such as surveys, searches and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). UPRNs are administered by GeoPlace, a public sector body formed in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA) and Ordnance Survey, that collects relevant information from individual local authorities. UPRNs are now widely used by local authorities as a way of referencing and sharing address information about properties and have been likened to car number plates, national insurance numbers and indeed, passports.

Not surprisingly, the appeal of a system that stores all of a property's information in one place has not been lost on the property industry, where its potential to speed up conveyancing and boost sales, while at the same time benefitting buyers, sellers and tenants, is being hailed as future game changer.

Indeed, back in January industry bigwigs got together to pen an open letter to the then Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, advocating the market-wide adoption of the UPRN scheme. And just a few weeks ago a white paper was published by the Conveyancing Information Executive (CIE), a new property industry body, offering a roadmap for rolling out property passports - so it would seem that the scheme's adoption is more a case of when rather than if.

For the fact is, conveyancing today actually takes longer than it did 20 years ago when there was a 28-day window before the property went back on the market. Now it takes an average of 22 to 23 weeks, despite the enormous advances made digitally. The introduction of property passports, however, looks set to significantly reduce that time frame as the sharing of relevant data such as surveys, searches and safety certificates will become much more efficient and transparent, creating a more fluid property market with greater volumes of transactions. That's not only great news for those working within the industry, but also for buyers and sellers as it will greatly reduce anxiety and stress for both parties. Prospective tenants look set to benefit too, with property passports speeding up pre-rental information sharing and ultimately provide better protection. Information such as gas safety certification, electrical installation reports and deposit scheme records will all available at the one source, as opposed to the unconnected systems that currently operate. In addition, it's expected that UPRNs will make it easier to weed out rogue landlords. A landlord without the required certification is much more likely to be evading taxes, so a possible win for HMRC into the bargain. Indeed, such is the level of industry support, many would like to see the government mandate the UPRN system as they have done for the public sector. It's a sentiment generally backed by that recent white paper, which states: 'Meaningful progress for the property transaction sector will generally be all or nothing. Until every stakeholder, data contributor and decision maker are using information based on an underlying UPRN, the prospect of a successful property passport is a proverbial pipe dream.' Watch this space...

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