Electronic Signing and Witnessing of HMLR deeds with DocuSign eSignature

The acceptance of electronic signatures by the HM Land Registry (HMLR) has been an eagerly anticipated reform for a number of years. Printing, posting and scanning documents isn’t always feasible, and since the COVID-19 lockdown, the requirement for a digital alternative to wet signatures has increased greatly. 

In response, on July 27, 2020, the HMLR announced that it will accept witnessed electronic signatures (WES) with immediate effect. We commend the HMLR for embracing such digital transformation efforts and we ourselves will continue to also lean into their initiatives.

Read on for a summary of how you can use DocuSign eSignature for witnessing and signing HMLR deeds electronically. 

Summary of HM Land Registry Practice Guidance

On Monday 27th July, 2020, the HMLR issued practice guidance for the use of Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES). The change in regulations allows the transfer of deeds and other dispositionary deeds to happen with the HMLR, including electronic signing and an improved overall digital experience. 

There are several key requirements for witnessed electronic signing, including:

(1) a need for physical presence of the witness and 

(2) a One Time Password (OTP) access authentication for the signatory AND the witness.

For more information, here is the full practice guidance from HMLR.

How DocuSign eSignature can support HMLR electronic witnessing

DocuSign provides several options to help you sign and witness deeds electronically in an easy way. Below are different workflows you can follow, depending on your use cases and requirements. 

For each workflow we show two experiences: 

  1.  The sending experience ( Envelope Creation), the equivalent of setting up the document/s to be signed/witnessed, choosing the signing workflow and setting up each signer. 
  2. The signing experience (Signing) for the signer and witness. 

Known witness(es)

Workflow 1 - DocuSign eSignature (Envelope Creation)

Use case: Multiple signers & witnesses, witness(es) are known

Product: DocuSign eSignature (using standard signing roles)

HMLR deeds eSignature envelope creation

Workflow 1 - DocuSign eSignature (Signing)

Use case: Multiple signers & witnesses, witness(es) are known

Product: DocuSign eSignature (using standard signing roles)

HMLR deeds eSignature signing

Unknown witness(es)

Workflow 2 – DocuSign eSignature - Specify Recipients (Envelope Creation)

Use case: One signer, one or more witnesses, witness(es) are unknown

Product: DocuSign eSignature (using standard signing roles and specify for signers to address witnesses)

HMLR deeds e-signature envelope creation

Workflow 2 - DocuSign eSignature - Specify Recipients (Signing)

Use case: One signer, one or more witnesses, witness(es) are unknown

Product: DocuSign eSignature (using standard signing roles and specify for signers to address witnesses)

HMLR deeds e-signature signing

Enhanced Privacy. While not an HMLR requirement, there might be instances in which you would prefer to limit document visibility to the signatory only. In this instance, you can apply document visibility.

What’s next?

We live in a world where change is constant and rapid. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the private, professional and regulatory sphere. The latest guidance of HMLR is an example of how rapidly things evolve.

We are honoured to be in a position where we can support our customers with this exciting new development. We are further energised by the opportunity to continue to collaborate with both the innovative leadership of the HMLR and leading UK law firms in continuing to further improve the digital UK land registration experience. 

For more information about how DocuSign eSignature can support electronic witnessing generally or specifically for HMLR deeds and/or how you too can collaborate with DocuSign on our global efforts to help accelerate the world’s digital transformation, please contact us.

Note. The highlighted eSignature workflows support current HMLR requirements for OTP. If you are proceeding with a witnessing act that does not need to adhere to the HMLR requirements (e.g., OTP), and wish to limit witness access to the agreement post-signing, you may consider using the eWitness add-on feature to eSignature. Learn more about eWitness by watching our introductory video or visit our blog where we answer all of your eWitness questions.

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