Landowners told to be ready for law changes

Changes in property law likely to increase bureaucracy

Solicitors are suggesting that the net effect of changes to property law will be increased bureaucracy and legal bills for commercial landowners, including horticulturists. Giles Gillingham, solicitor at RHW Solicitors of Guildford, Surrey, said new land registration and stamp duty land tax rules will add to the “overall level of bureaucracy for businesses”. He added: “It will increase costs for businesses in having to make sure the new procedures are followed.” Last month’s Land Registration Act heralds a move towards e-conveyancing and registration of all UK land by about 2010. Gillingham warns that landowners will need to manage their property titles more actively. He said: “You must also act now to protect any rights you enjoy over unregistered land.” He added that on the plus side, e-conveyancing will, in time, result in more efficient land transactions. On the changes to stamp duty, he commented: “If anyone is looking to deal in any way with their existing property or to acquire other property, it is extremely important that they obtain professional advice early on.” The new tax applies from 1 December, when the nil rate for commercial property rises to £150,000, stamp duty on lease rents will be one per cent of “net present value”, lease variations or surrenders will be taxed like a purchase and land transaction returns will be more like a mini tax return. The Horticultural Trades Association has a property advice helpline for members on 0207 487 5678 and a planning advice helpline on 01905 726363.

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