Propertymark previously reported on our involvement with a scheme to streamline the process of proving digital identity for property transactions. In parallel, HM Land Registry has recognised the growing importance of digital signatures and believes the new practice will make the adoption and use of existing electronic signature options simpler.
The new guide clearly sets out when each type of exiting electronic signature can be used in a property transaction, beginning with Mercury Signatures. This is where a scanned manuscript signature is added to a document and is named after the court case that established the law in this area.
Most land registry documents can be signed in this way, except for digital mortgages, lasting powers of attorney, forms ID1, ID2, ID3, ID4 and ID5, and statutory declarations. All parties in the transaction must be represented by a conveyancer, all the conveyancers must agree to the use of Mercury Signatures, following the steps set out in the guide.
Conveyancer-certified electronic signatures
This method is a truly electronic signature, where someone adds their signature electronically to a document in front of a witness, as opposed to the electronic recording of a wet signature in the case of the Mercury method. It requires the use of an operating system or a platform that manages the electronic signing process, including the creation of the electronic signature. There is no approved list of providers of this service.
As with Mercury Signatures, all the parties involved must be represented by a conveyancer (though there are a few exceptions listed in this case), and all conveyancers involved must agree to the use of conveyancer-certified electronic signatures.
Qualified electronic signatures
It also sets out processes for transactions where a mix of wet and electronic signatures are used, for companies signing electronically, and for the use of other electronic signatures and Qualified Electronic Signatures.
The guide goes on to advise conveyancers to retain with their conveyancing file a copy of the completion certificate or audit report produced by the platform at the end of the signing process.