HM Land registry set to accept digital signatures

HM Land Registry has revealed plans to accept witness-free e-signatures to execute deeds, almost 20 years after the technology was approved in legislation.

Draft guidance was released last week, which highlighted that parties represented by conveyancers will be able to execute five categories of official documentation via digital signature, including power of attorney and deeds.

Digital signatures in land transactions were approved in the Land Registration Act 2002 and were endorsed by the Law Commission last year, but the Land Registry has not yet accepted the technology.

The Land Registry has also stated that it intends to phase out the emergency temporary process for capturing wet signatures electronically, moving instead to fully digital signatures that will not need witnessing as they require secure identity verification.

Mike Harlow, General Counsel at the Land Registry, said: “Our hope is that in the near future qualified electronic signatures become more commonplace and the service providers tailor their use to conveyancing.

“If they do develop to be a successful option for completing property transactions, we will review the use of electronic signatures and may withdraw their acceptance, which would leave only the more secure qualified electronic signatures in use.”

The Land Registry has also stated it believes that, with some safeguards, it can accept both witnessed digital signatures and qualified electronic signatures, which are operated by trust service providers that are approved by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The draft guidance is released for feedback, and conveyancers have until Saturday 18 July to submit their views on the guidance regarding e-signatures for deeds, while a practice note on how qualified electronic signatures may be used is set to be published in the coming weeks.

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Gunduz Misiri
Gunduz has been a qualified solicitor since 2011 and specialises in both Residential and Commercial Property. He acts on behalf of Buyers, Sellers, Landlords and Tenants in the acquisition and disposal of both Commercial and Residential Property. Gunduz’s has acted for retail clients, on the acquisition of a number of retail units in Central London.