Land Registry is now accepting deeds that have been executed by ‘virtual means’. The changes have been introduced on a temporary basis and may be modified or withdrawn at Land Registry’s discretion. However, we hope that this will become permanent, in one form or another, as it will enable transactions to proceed more quickly and efficiently.
Clients will still need to sign documents in ink, and that signature must be witnessed in person (not by a video call). However, the signature page can then be scanned or photographed and simply emailed back to the solicitor, together with the final form of the deed. This is obviously beneficial in the current situation but it will also be a welcome (and long awaited) development for our international clients based outside the UK.
Solicitors on both sides of a transaction must agree to a virtual completion, and comply with the relevant Law Society guidance. Land Registry requires the relevant deed and signature pages to be combined into a single document, so solicitors will need to have access to suitable software or the ability to print and scan documents. The new process may not be suitable for all transactions, for example sales of part where the scaled plan is not A4 size. However, it is no exaggeration to say that this is a breakthrough in conveyancing practice! Such completions were already common in other areas of legal practice, and we are delighted to that Land Registry is moving with the times, to embrace developments in IT.
Land Registry have also relaxed some of the rules around identity checks - a limited number of non-conveyancer professionals can now verify identity and the checks can be carried out on a video call.
From Monday 4 May, we have introduced temporary changes when verifying a person’s identity and for signing deeds. In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak HM Land Registry is regularly reviewing its practice, policy and procedures, taking guidance from customer feedback.