Conveyancing enters the digital age

Feb 26, 2018

The process of buying and selling houses regularly tops polls as one of the most stressful experiences of modern life. When asked in detail often it is the painfully slow process of conveyancing and solicitors’ actions that draw the most frustration. However this anger is often misplaced, as the timetable for conveyancing has up until now been held up by lengthy paper documentation trails and contract negotiations.

E-Sign Conveyancing enters the digital age

It’s not really news that dealing with property is not the most laugh-a-minute experience, what is news is that the government is taking real steps to improve it, as HM Land Registry is opening the way for making conveyancing fully digital. The changes will come into effect on April 6th and will allow digital documents with e-signatures to be used for land transfers and land registration.

What’s actually changing?

The changes that will come into effect in April are the latest in a sustained push by the Land Registry to ease the burden of paperwork and increase the speed of conveyancing. Over the last year they have already introduced software that allows solicitors to submit applications for registration of transfers and mortgages online, so registration for change of ownership can now be achieved a couple of days after completion of purchase. These new rule changes will allow HM Land Registry to introduce fully digital conveyancing documents such as mortgages and transfers.

E-Sign transfer registration electronic signature

Chief Executive and Chief Land Registrar Graham Farrant spoke about the changes: “Our customers are central to everything we do and we want to make dealing with us quicker and simpler by providing more services through digital technology. These changes are an important enabler for our digital transformation and I want to thank our customers for their positive responses to the consultation".

The Law Society Gazette detailed how these changes could affect conveyancing processes:

  1. Documents no longer need witnessing as the identity assurance has already taken place before the electronic signature can be used.
  2. Enables wholly electronic mortgages, when there is no change in ownership of the property. Conveyancers will create electronic mortgage deeds online, giving the borrowers a link through which they can esign.
  3. Rules revoked requiring certain documents to be retained and amending the definition of 'working day' to take into account changes in working practices as well as the 'proper office' order stating where applications should be lodged.
  4. New cut-backs on access to personal visitors. The document notes that the cost of maintaining personnel for the 'occasional' visitor to its offices is very high. The free service of having identity forms validated by a Land Registry officer is used only by 'do-it-yourself' conveyancers. Even there, most people who need to have an identity form validated go to a solicitor or other conveyancer for the service. 'It might be therefore argued that for Land Registry to continue to offer this service free is unfair to customers who cannot get to a Land Registry office, and unfair on local conveyancers who would otherwise get that business.'

How does it work?

The Land Registry are using the government identity verification portal Verify.gov which uses a number of verified databases to confirm the identity of the user. This portal is already being used in other sectors of the government, including HMRC, to simplify and centralise citizens’ information. By allowing solicitors to use the Verify.gov on behalf of their clients the process of conveyancing is hugely simplified and expedited for both customer and the solicitors. The new system provides a space that the legally binding contracts terms can be ratified, sent and completed in a matter of days rather than weeks or months.

What are the issues?

Security was the first concern that was raised, but the level of encryption and verification make the new technology just as safe, and usually more so, than paper contracts. Business secretary Greg Clark, discussed the government accepting liability arising from HMLR’s digital mortgage project, said that Verify “has not identified a single example of fraud despite in excess of 1.25 million citizens’ accounts having been created”.

E-Sign Secure UK Based Database

A thornier problem is that whilst digitising conveyancing may be manageable for flexible and forward-looking solicitors and individual clients, it also requires that every company with whom the solicitors are in contact, including estate agents, other local councils, and mortgage brokers etc, must also be relatively tech-savvy and familiar with this technology and new processes. However the same could have been said for the introduction of fax machines and then of email, business changes in line with the technology available and this new move is merely the Land Registry updating it’s systems to work better for customers and professionals in 21st century.

Does this work elsewhere?

The government is already successfully using the Verify.gov portal in a number of other sectors and online signatures are becoming more and more common and vital in all areas of business and personal administration. This government confidence in digital identity verification and electronic signatures is catching up to other industries and areas where this technology has been used to great effect, for example E-sign, an electronic signature provider, have been using a similar system Veri-me to great effect for a good while.

E-Sign Veri Me Electronic Signature

Veri-me merges advanced electronic signature technology and electronic document management with real world ID validation. Veri-me’s verification technology lets an individual, business, or responsible person check the integrity of residents of the UK, anytime in a matter of minutes. It exceeds the regulatory requirements and can legally affirm a number of important identity verifications, including age, and check compliance with anti-money laundering regulations. By checking against passports, driving license, credit and address check, Veri-me and E-Sign ensure that risks of fraud are minimised whilst speed and convenience are improved.

For more information on how you can stay at the forefront of digitisation and take advantage of online verification and e-signatures, don’t hesitate to contact E-Sign at info@e-sign.co.uk or https://e-sign.co.uk/

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