E-signing could be about to transform homebuying. E-signing of documents has come into its own during the pandemic but there still have been some situations where an electronic signature is not acceptable. However, as the old saying goes necessity is the mother of invention. So today HM Land Registry has announced it is now able to accept electronic signatures for a number of important property transactions.
In another move aimed at boosting the housing market transfers of ownership of property, leases, mortgages and other property dealings can now be signed electronically. The hope is that this will make it simpler and quicker for people to move home.
From today HM Land Registry will accept ‘witnessed electronic signatures’ in place of wet-ink. These make it possible to sign legal documents remotely, although a witness who is present at the time must counter-sign the documents electronically too.
This signals the removal of the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction. This will help homebuyers during the current health emergency while lots of people are working at home, but the Land Registry also sees it as “a keystone of a truly digital, secure and more efficient conveyancing process that we believe is well within reach”. Good news, we think. Especially as the next step is to also look at the possibility of using qualified electronic signatures – which won’t require a witness. Instead, this type of E-signature relies on using a ‘Qualified Trust Service Provider’ which will have standards in place to securely verify the identity of the signatory and the Land Registry is already exploring their introduction as soon as it becomes practical to do so.
At Ringley we’ve been using E-signing for a wide range of documents for some time. This technology has certainly made life easier for both our staff and our customers during the last few months, so we welcome today’s announcement. It should bring conveyancing firmly into the 21st century. We are also pleased to hear that work is also going on to improve security around E-signing. The Government is exploring whether the digital identity checking technology used in other sectors could also be used in the conveyancing industry to increase resilience against fraud and improve the ease of buying and selling. If they get this right, we think this is good news all round for homebuyers, vendors and their property and legal advisers. What do you think?
Click here to read the new practice guidance for conveyancers on how to use electronic signatures.