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Land Registry publishes new e-signatures guide

05/04/22

Mark Say Managing Editor

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Electronic signature abstract
Image source: istock.com/Marharyta Marko

HM Land Registry has published a dedicated practice guide on the use of electronic signatures in conveyancing.

It said it is based on customer feedback and highlighted changes in terminology and the steps in the signing process.

This comes soon after the Ministry of Justice provided support for the wider use of e-signatures with the publication of a working group interim report on the issue.

Writing in a blogpost, product owner Michael Abraham said the new guidance includes a shift away from the term ‘witnessed electronic signatures’ towards ‘conveyancer certified electronic signatures’ for describing the step-by-step signing process. This has been developed in collaboration with a cross-section of customers and serves as a reminder of the requirement to lodge a conveyancer’s certificate confirming the requirements have been met.

He also said there have been minor changes in the guidance for each step in the signing to process to provide further clarity.

The document takes in several features including ‘Mercury signing’, which requires a ‘wet ink’ signature, mixed signing and other electronic signatures.

Growing appetite

Abraham said: “The appetite to adopt electronic signatures is there and growing. Many customers see the future in them, even after the pandemic.

“We are therefore keen to do what we can to improve and build on our work in 2020 and 2021 to facilitate the use of electronic signatures more widely within the conveyancing process, while also looking forward through 2022 and beyond.”

He added: “We believe the new practice will make the adoption and use of existing electronic signature options simpler.”

Abraham said that Land Registry has also been running a pilot project – due to be extended – on the use of qualified electronic signatures, which verify the authorship of an electronic declaration over long periods of time. These are not yet widely used in the UK but the organisation believes they will be increasing viable in the future, with potential benefits for security and as a single source of identity verification.

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