HM Land Registry is expected to shortly release draft guidance on the use of electronic signatures that would exempt the requirement to have a witness to a conveyancing transaction.
In a blog post last week, HMLR general counsel Mike Harlow said the organisation was “close” to sharing draft practice guidance for qualified electronic signatures.
Land Registry began accepting witnessed electronic signatures to execute deeds in July this year, removing the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a property transaction.
These do not require a witness since the process involves an embedded check, with all outputs encrypted and working to a regulated standard.
When announcing the concession in July, HM Land Registry Chief executive Simon Hayes stated the department was also looking into “more sophisticated” qualified electronic signatures. He said “our intention is to work with the sector to bring them in as an option as soon as possible, but with the expectation that they will be used alongside witnessed electronic signatures for some time to come.”
HM Land Registry has confirmed witnessed e-signatures will remain the norm for at least another couple of years, along with continued use of the Mercury Signing Approach (involving the signature page of the transfer or dispositionary deed to be signed in pen and physically witnessed by a person) to complete a deed.