Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 set out to improve the transparency of land ownership in Scotland.

Do you own or have a controlling interest in land? You may need to apply to the Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land (RCI).

The majority of properties in Scotland will appear on one of two registers: the General Register of Sasines or the Land Register. 

The Sasines Register dates back to 1617 and is Scotland’s original national register of property deeds. Land is listed chronologically with written descriptions of properties and details of the recorded deeds, including the grantee. However, any additional information regarding the extent of landholding can only be obtained by looking directly at the deeds.

The modern Land Register began its rollout in 1981. It contains a map of each property and other information, including details of the registered proprietor. All privately and publicly owned land should be registered on the Land Register by 1 April 2024.

The Sasines Register and the Land Register can provide information on the legal owner as set out in the land deeds, but may not show who makes decisions about the land and property.

Land ownership transparency

The Scottish Government is keen to ensure that land in Scotland is sustainably owned, used and developed for the benefit of the people and communities of the country. The person with a controlling interest in the land must be easily traceable for situations such as:

  • Identifying the perpetrators of wildlife crime
  • Requesting trees to be cut down that are dangerously reducing the line of sight on roads
  • Seeking damages after an injury is suffered by an individual on an area of land

A policy on land ownership transparency has been driven by concern over the potential for legal entities, such as companies, and arrangements such as the creation of trusts, that may be used to obscure or hide the persons controlling interest.

Lawfully minimising tax

It’s no secret that there are tax-friendly ways of working to minimise payments and obligations. Will most who purchase property and hold it within a limited company are doing so to minimise a financial burden, it can have a secondary benefit for those who are trying to circumvent the law: namely that although the land must be documented on the Land Register, this may not explicitly disclose the real ownership.

The solution? The introduction of the RCI.

Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land

The RCI is a register of persons, rather than a property register like the Sasines Register and Land Register. Unlike the existing registers, the introduction of the RCI aims to make it possible to look behind companies, overseas entities and trusts to see who actually controls the land.

It came into force on 1 April 2022, with a transitional period of 12 months. This deadline was then extended to 1 April 2024, giving recorded persons a further year to record their interest in land or property. Failure to comply with the duty to disclose information by this date, or the provision of false or misleading information, will be a criminal offence, with the penalty being a fine of up to £5,000.

The RCI gathers information on three aspects:

  • The land
  • The recorded person (the owners and tenants of the land)
  • Associates (people who might have a controlling interest in the land)

Several conditions must be met to be classed as a recorded person, and there are exemptions. A full list of exemptions can be found in Schedule 2 of the RCI regulations.

To register with the RCI you must request access through online services or create an account with RCI. The deadline for registration is 1 April 2024. If you believe that any land you or your company are affiliated with falls under the scope of RCI, register today to avoid the risk of legal repercussions.

If you need help understanding RCI and its scope, seek legal advice.

Message us direct

Online enquiry

Call your nearest branch