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Land Registry consults on fully digital conveyancing

17/02/17

Proposals for shift to e-mortgages includes use of GOV.UK Verify platform and development of APIs for conveyancers

Land Registry has opened a consultation on its rules with a set of proposed changed that include a wholesale shift to digital channels for conveyancing and registrations, and the use of the GOV.UK Verify service to authenticate identities.

Land Registry signIt said the move is the next step in its digital transformation programme and is designed to give customers more options in using its services.

According to the consultation document, which includes a broader range of proposals, the move to digital conveyancing reflects the fact that mortgage lenders and conveyancers are now much more enthusiastic about the technology than when the existing rules were introduced in 2008.

A small scale pilot on electronic mortgages in 2009 suggested that there was little demand, but now the lenders and conveyancers have indicated that it would enable them to work more efficiently and speed up turnover. Consequently, Land Registry has proposed a change in the rules that would make it possible for e-documents with electronic signatures to be regarded as deeds on properties.

First step

This would allow the gradual introduction of secure electronic conveyancing and registration services. The plan is that the first step would involve introducing electronic mortgages when there is no change of ownership – predominantly for remortgaging – with services such as mortgages for corporate borrowers to follow.

The e-documents would be developed in a format agreed with the lenders, and other dispositionary e-documents such as leases might be introduced later if there is a need among users.

In addition, Land Registry will build and share a set of APIs for conveyancers and case management providers to integrate directly with its systems. This would make it possible for them to feed data directly into their electronic mortgage documents, and to access Land Registry data.

A web front end connection will also be built on the agency’s website for conveyancers who do not want to use the APIs.

The document also says that the GOV.UK Verify platform, developed by the Government Digital Service for online identity assurance, will be used alongside its own security matching measures.

This would provide a boost for the platform which has only been taken up for 12 central government services since its launch in May of last year. The new Government Transformation Strategy has set a target of 25 million users by the end of 2020.

Rule changes

The proposals also include plans to ease the way for further digital changes, partly by dropping the requirement for documents to be retained when an application is complete.  

It will all involve revoking the Land Registration (Electronic Conveyancing) Rules 2008 as they will no longer be needed.

Other proposals in the consultation include introducing new statutory services when research shows there is a customer demand, and making the organisation’s opening hours more flexible. It will be open until 5 April.

The consultation comes months after the Government backed away from controversial plans to sell off Land Registry, a move that was explained partly as the best way of allowing the scope for it to digitise its services. The agency has also made plans to develop a new digital register for Local Land Charges.

 

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