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HM Land Registry to accept electronic signatures

Monday 27 July 2020

Today, Monday 27 July, the transfers of ownership of property, leases, mortgages, and other property dealings can now be signed electronically, making it simpler and faster for people to move home.

Draft guidance on the use of e-signatures was introduced on 9 July to tackle the issues that legal formalities caused during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance, which was fast-tracked, will provide conveyancers with an immediate solution to working with paper documents to complete property transactions.

This digital development follows HM Land Registry previously confirming acceptance of deed signatures using the ‘Mercury Signing Approach’. It has been verified that this will continue to be used to complete deeds electronically, whilst needed.

Within a standard deed, a witness is still required to be present, yet replacing the traditional wet-ink signature with an electronic signature enables a document to be witnessed and signed within a professional and socially distanced environment.

Guidance

Future developments

This guidance was developed in discussion with the market and HM Land Registry’s industry forum – a collection of regulatory bodies as well as conveyancers and lenders. This exciting development could lead to an innovative, reliable solution for future successful completions of property transactions. Further discussions are already being held within the sector, to debate the potential for introducing qualified electronic signatures; with scope for HM Land Registry to review the continued use of witnessed electronic signatures where and when possible.

Practical guidance

The Land Registry Practice Guide 8 has been updated and Section 13 contains information on the steps and measures needed to take when using an electronic signature.

Section 13

Quote mark

What we have done today is remove the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction. This should help right now while lots of us are working at home, but it is also a keystone of a truly digital, secure, and more efficient conveyancing process that we believe is well within reach. The more sophisticated qualified electronic signatures are a part of that vision and encouraging those is where our attention will be directed next. I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation on the guidance. This has helped to ensure this new witnessed electronic signature process works for everyone.

Simon Hayes, Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar 

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