The Introduction Of Electronic Signatures By HM Land Registry

As with most industries, conveying has, over the years, made big strides to move with the times and adapt to people’s wants and needs. Yet, it remains that some practices still seem frustratingly out of date and laborious to house buyers and sellers. Thankfully a recent announcement by HM Land Registry could see a big step forward for conveyancing.

While the global pandemic saw the housing market grind to a temporary halt, the UK’s Land Registry recently consulted with conveyancers and others in the sector on what could be done to help ease issues raised while working from home during lockdown. As a result, they announced their intentions to accept electronic signatures in conveyancing.

Land Registry deputy chief executive, Mike Harlow, said in the Registry’s blog: “We will soon start accepting witnessed electronic signatures and then take steps to ensure that digital signatures (more specifically Qualified Electronic Signatures) can be used when working with HM Land Registry.”

What does this mean for house buyers and/or sellers?

As of Monday 27 July 2020, HM Land Registry will now accept ‘witnessed electronic signatures’: electronic signatures that enable an individual to sign legal documents, but which still require a witness who is present at the time to also sign the documents electronically.

This should significantly help towards speeding up the process when buying and or selling a property as digital signatures will now be accepted on things like a deed transferring land instead of it being signed with a pen – a ‘wet-ink’ signature. It reduces the reliance on the person printing, signing and posting back the documents, a process that could take days depending on their circumstances or reactiveness.

Future-proofing the industry

In addition to the new announcement surrounding electronic signatures, HM Land Registry has also discussed its plans to find a means to identify people securely and digitally. Mike Harlow said: “We look forward to supporting the industry as it develops a means of using cryptographic biometrics as another foundation of efficient, digital and secure means of conveying property.”

As the UK’s largest direct conveyancer we look forward to any future developments in making housing transactions easier for our customers. COVID-19 has proved that being able to work more digitally certainly is the way forward for the industry.

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