Drive to Make Unique Property Reference Numbers the Norm

With ongoing pressures on the property market post-lockdown, professionals in the sector have called on the government to update and improve the system of selling, buying and renting. Most recently, this has included a drive to encourage using Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs).

In a recent article published online by the Law Gazette, Andrew Knight, international data standards director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, has recognised the need for greater awareness of UPRNs, commenting that, ‘[The UK property market is] an incredibly fragmented sector, reflected in the fragmentation of data itself, whether digital or analogue.’

Real estate agent congratulations to new buyer by giving house model to client in the agency office.

What are Unique Property Reference Numbers?

As Ordnance Survey explain on their website, Unique Property Reference Numbers are ‘used to uniquely identify addressable locations in Great Britain’. The numbers each contain an assessment of the historical changes made to a property, which can be retrieved and updated by a variety of professional bodies and accessed via all Ordnance Survey’s ‘AddressBase’ products.

The intention is that UPRNs can provide a precise and reliable overview of a property so that when it comes to buying, selling and renting, all involved parties have the latest and most accurate data. The numbers could also be used more widely – for example, on council tax bills – to provide greater continuity, with similarities drawn to the use of vehicle registration numbers for tax renewals.

What are the Benefits?

Unique Property Reference Numbers have proved to be especially beneficial to the Private Rental Sector (PRS), helping to make letting procedures more secure and reliable for agencies, landlords and tenants. For example, UPRNs can be used to store important health and safety information.

The Lettings Industry Council (TLIC) are one of the companies encouraging the government to make the use of UPRNs common practice in the sector. The council represents the interests of a range of lettings professionals including organisations, schemes, service providers and agents.

Theresa Wallace, chair of the company, had first-hand experience of purchasing property earlier this year and has spoken about how UPRNs can help the process: ‘If all that information was connected to the UPRN, I’m sure my property transaction would have gone through in half the time […].’

How Could this Affect the UK Property Market?

Within the UK, address registers including Unique Property Reference Numbers are updated by local authorities and passed on to a centralised record maintained by GeoPlace. The company have cited the use of UPRNs as ‘a game changer for the lettings industry’, with managing director Nick Chapallaz hoping that the numbers will be used routinely across the sector in the near future.

At the start of 2021, industry professionals penned an open letter to the government endorsing wider use of the system to make property sales quicker and more efficient. The government agreed, with UPRNs seen as a boost to Boris Johnson’s ‘build back better’ aspirations and suggesting that Unique Property Reference Numbers are likely to become commonplace soon.