Following the Irish Government's announcement on 27 March, a number of state registries and offices were forced to close in light of COVID-19. This caused delays in completing standard searches and filings typically associated with real estate and lending transactions. Thankfully, the situation has improved more recently and we look at the current position with the various offices and registries in which searches are typically carried out and filings made.
Companies Registration Office (CRO)
CRO searches can be carried out but the processing of certain CRO paper filings may be delayed, including insolvency related filings. The CRO recently provided an update as to the status of the various CRO filings. It has since confirmed that examinership, receivership and liquidation filings were up to date as of 8 May 2020.
Up to date searches can be carried out for judgments and lis pendens. There are no delays in search turnaround times.
High Court Central Office
While the Central Office is open by appointment only since 30 March it is possible to carry out both a plaintiff and defendant search, a winding-up petition search, and a proceedings search, and no delays in search turnaround times are apparent.
Bankruptcy and Insolvency searches
Searches can be carried out and no delays apparent.
Sheriff’s Office and Receiver of Fines searches
Searches can be carried out. However, there may be some delays in turnaround times as Sheriff’s offices are opening with reduced hours. It appears that certain law searchers are having difficulty in obtaining Circuit Court Sheriff’s Office searches.
Searches can now be carried out and certified copy folios and file plans can be obtained. The Land Registry offices closed on 30 March and reopened on 20 April for the processing of applications, which led to a backlog in the processing of applications. This backlog has now been cleared and new applications are being processed, although not necessarily progressed, and assigned dealing numbers. As a result we can now rely on Land Registry searches. While certified copy folios and file plans can be obtained, it appears that the Land Registry is issuing certified copy instruments only when required as part of an “essential service”. Legal services provided by practising solicitors are “essential services” within the meaning of the emergency legislation. In order to make certified copy instruments available, the Land Registry seems to require that the legal service is one supporting essential services or vulnerable people in accordance with the Government guidelines, noting that financial and banking services (which would include the drawdown of a loan and a related mortgage/charge for example) are also essential services.
Registry of Deeds
Registry of Deeds searches post 1970 can be carried out and the Registry of Deeds is processing and progressing applications for registration. Searches for any acts pre-1970 cannot be carried out by law searchers. Manual searches by Registry of Deeds staff can be conducted if the applicant makes a request directly to the Property Registration Authority and demonstrates exceptional circumstances, as per Land Registry requests for copy instruments. The Registry of Deeds offices closed on 30 March and reopened on 20 April which resulted in a backlog of deeds awaiting registration. We understand that the backlog caused by the offices closing has been cleared and normal timelines now apply.
The position varies between local planning authorities but it seems that searches carried out in the four Dublin planning authorities will disclose details of Zoning/development plan, road widening, enforcement and warning files, compulsory purchase orders, pending applications, and commencement notices although there are some delays in delivery of these search results and availability varies as between law searchers.
It is very important to enquire in each case with the law searcher as to the availability of the specific planning searches required and the likely turnaround time as the position varies greatly depending on the planning authority/county involved and indeed the law searcher engaged.
There are often practical steps which can be taken to mitigate the risks arising as a result of gaps in searches. For more information and expert guidance in these matters, contact a member of our Real Estate or Financial Services teams.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.f