The Land Registry has announced that, until further notice, it will now accept electronic signatures generated by electronic signature platforms for certain registrable deeds. This is a significant development that promises to revolutionise real estate legal practice in England and Wales.
Before rushing off to embrace this new norm, parties should first review the details of this new policy which are contained in Land Registry Practice Guide 8. Key points to note include:
- the Land Registry will only accept electronic signatures created using electronic signature platforms;
- to use electronic signatures, all parties must be represented by a conveyancer;
- Section 13.4 of the Practice Guide sets out the documents that can be signed electronically;
- not only must all parties be represented by a conveyancer, but it must also be a conveyancer that uploads the documents onto the signing platform and controls the signing process;
- all signatories and witnesses must be subject to two-factor authentication. In practice, this means that contact with them will not be just via email (as the platform contacts signatories and witnesses by email) but will also be by way of a one-time password sent to them by text message. That password must contain a minimum of six numbers;
- where witnesses are involved, conveyancers must be satisfied that they were physically present to witness the signatory sign. The most likely solution to this will be the inclusion in documents of a statement to be signed by the relevant witness confirming that they were indeed physically present and saw the signatory sign;
- the conveyancer submitting the electronically signed document to the Land Registry for registration must also certify that, to the best of their knowledge and belief, the Land Registry's requirements for the execution of deeds using electronic signatures have been satisfied; and
- 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 at the end of the signing process.