We have been successfully progressing, exchanging and completing property matters remotely for a number of weeks now but the main challenge that we faced was in relation to Land Registry’s requirements for the registration of deeds.
We are therefore delighted with Land Registry’s announcement today that they will be accepting ‘virtual completions’ with effect from Monday 4 May. Clients will still need to actually sign documents in ink and that signature must witnessed in person (not by a video call). However, the document can then be scanned or photographed and simply emailed to the solicitor. The resulting PDF signature page and the final form of the deed will together be sufficient for a land registration application. This is a major, and long-awaited development in conveyancing practice, and we applaud the Land Registry’s pragmatism in the current unprecedented circumstances. Of course, there are strict legal requirements (set out in case law) which must be followed so as to ensure an effective virtual completion, and property solicitors will quickly have to become familiar with these.
It is plain that those businesses, services and marketplaces in the UK that are more digital are faring the best right now. In comparison with other markets the conveyancing process (including some of HM Land Registry’s own processes) is still too disjointed and reliant on paper to be comfortable in this kind of crisis.