HM Land Registry is now accepting electronic signature in conveyancing
We commend the HM Land Registry for its newly issued guidelines that confirm that the HMLR is now accepting registration of a transfer deed or other form of dispositionary deed that is electronically signed. This fantastic news in that it provides greater flexibility and an improved signing experience for many people and organisations in the UK when working with HMLR.
Why is this happening now?
COVID-19 has forced organisations to re-evaluate their processes as most operations need to be conducted remotely. With many people working from home, and organisations functioning remotely – one of the more regular questions HM Land Registry has received from customers has been whether they would treat electronic signatures as equivalent to a ‘wet-ink’ signature. The HMLR guidelines do indeed affirm this treatment.
What does the guidance say?
The guidance issued by HMLR states that:
Until further notice, we will accept for registration transfers and certain other deeds (see Deeds that can be signed electronically) that have been electronically signed provided that the requirements set out in Our requirements are satisfied.
The deed may be signed by an individual or individuals on their own behalf or on behalf of another person, including a company. Where the deed is being signed on behalf of a company by two “authorised signatories” under section 44(2)(a) of the Companies Act 2006, no witness will be involved, and the requirements are to be read accordingly.
To make clear to a witness what is expected of them, conveyancers drafting a deed that might be electronically signed may wish to add a statement to the following effect next to or beneath where the witness is to sign: “I confirm that I was physically present when [name of signatory] signed this deed.”
The parties’ conveyancers are advised to retain with their conveyancing file a copy of the completion certificate or audit report produced by the electronic signature platform (platform) at the end of the signing process. Such a certificate or report should give an audit trail of the signing, including the time and date of the signatures, email addresses the document was sent to, the one-time password (OTP) method used, the fields that were completed and the IP addresses of the devices that were used.
What does this mean?
The land registry community is still digesting the corresponding operational logistics associated with this guidance. We are encouraged that these guidelines will bring benefits to a variety of stakeholders ranging from conveyancers, lenders, buyers and estate agents, offering them flexibility, helping them reduce time, get a better signing experience and keep transfer deed and other forms of dispositionary deeds fully digital. At a time when access to posting, printing and scanning can be a challenge, moving to a digital format helps make the process of registering transfer deeds and other dispositionary deeds more efficient.
How can DocuSign help?
DocuSign provides solutions that allow you to electronically sign and witness agreements and other documents.
Our solutions can help individuals meet the HMLR guidelines, including the ability to electronically add and authenticate signers and witnesses.
We continue to work closely with HMLR and leading law firms in the UK to better understand the intentions behind the guidelines, and further refine our products to meet all the variations of the requirements, both today and in the future.
With DocuSign eSignature solution and the eWitness feature:
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Digitise manual, paper-based processes to speed up the contracting process. What used to take weeks can now be completed within a few hours, and even minutes and eliminate unnecessary printing of paper heavy deeds and agreements.
Every document signed with DocuSign eSignature comes with a Certificate of Completion that provides proof of the signing that can be used in a dispute. For transactions with witness recipients, information about the witness, such as occupation, address, email address, IP address and time stamps, is also captured in the Certificate of Completion to provide auditability of signature and witnessing process to all transaction parties.
When seeking to validate a signatory, DocuSign provides the flexibility to choose between witnessed electronic signatures or digital signatures, including Advanced and Qualified signatures (AES and QES) that require identity authentication before a digital certificate is issued.
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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 will continue to evaluate the evolving needs of our customers and to adapt our products to meet new requirements. DocuSign’s products enable remote working, so we are in a position to help organisations of all types at this time. We recognise this is a moment to step up, and we are.