Every unit of land and property in the UK is allocated a Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) and geographical coordinates to ensure there is a genuine record for each address. Local authorities are required to maintain these address registers, which are then submitted to ‘GeoPlace’ a central address database which is owned by the Local Government Association and Ordnance Survey. Until last year this information was not freely available, however from 1st July 2020 the data has been available to everyone.
The UPRN’s act like a car number plate – effectively linking many different records, such as MOT, insurance, road tax and logbook, together in one place to easily identify everything you would need to know about that car. Using this for property means information can be linked between different databases that are relevant to that one property. However currently, not many agencies use the UPRN, so information is still stored separately, and it is more difficult to access all the data accurately and efficiently.
In January 2021 over 50 leading residential bodies across the UK published an open letter to the UK housing secretary highlighting the potential benefits from implementing wide usage of the UPRN’s across the property sector.
The benefits could be substantial, including:
· Enhanced building, consumer, and market safety.
· Legislation would be more effectively enforced and targeted.
· Protection for tenants would be improved, which would reduce rogue landlords.
· The conveyancing process would be sped up, and there would be greater transparency in home buying and selling.
· It would reduce waste, save time, and better inform the consumer, thereby empowering them.
If the UPRNs were to be fully implemented it could transform the property sector, removing error in data exchange and communication, improving safety and understanding, and making many areas more efficient.
However, the open letter also addresses critical steps the Government should take to enable all the benefits the UPRNs could bring:
· All public sectors relating to properties and building should use the UPRN and guidance on how to do this is necessary.
· The UPRNs must be used for any future Government tenders and policy relating to residential properties.
· There must be clear ethical guidelines on how the data is used in the housing market.
· The UPRN must be in a clear and usable format, enabling it to be widely identified, and freely used and shared.
· Explanation, tools, and support materials must be provided to the whole sector for widespread adoption.
To make the UPRN’s more extensive and accessible, the Government need to showcase what the adoption of the UPRN’s can achieve, and advocate for all the benefits they could have on all areas of the property sector. The cost of producing and maintaining this data set may be high but this would soon be exceeded by the return on investment, and if implemented effectively could help position the UK as the world’s leading property market.
A link to the open letter can be found here.