HM Land Registry has started accepting e-signatures, though witnesses also need to be present.
Conveyancers can now use e-signatures to quicken up the homebuying process.
Simon Hayes, chief executive and chief land registrar at the HM Land Registry, said yesterday: “What we have done today is remove the last strict requirement to print and sign a paper document in a home buying or other property transaction.
“This should help right now while lots of us are working at home, but it is also a keystone of a truly digital, secure and more efficient conveyancing process that we believe is well within reach.
“The more sophisticated qualified electronic signatures are a part of that vision and encouraging those is where our attention will be directed next.
“I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation on the guidance. This has helped to ensure this new witnessed electronic signature process works for everyone.”
The Land Registry has published practice guidance for conveyancers on how to use electronic signatures.
There will be further discussions with the sector to explore the potential introduction of qualified electronic signatures.
If they do develop to be a successful option for completing property transactions, HM Land Registry will review the continues use of witnessed electronic signatures.
Work is also being undertaken to explore whether digital identity checking technology used in other sectors can be encouraged in the conveyancing industry to increase resilience against fraud and improve the ease of buying and selling.
Adam Forshaw, managing director at leading tech-driven conveyancers, O’Neill Patient, said: “This is a significant step forward for homebuyers, as it means that in principle the entire homebuying journey can now be conducted electronically.
“Even before the advent of Covid-19 and social distancing, there was significant demand for a more tech-driven process. But one of the biggest problems facing the property sector in lockdown was the ongoing requirement for ‘wet-ink’ signatures.
“The Land Registry is to be commended for moving quickly from consultation to new guidance. We look forward to working with them on their additional proposals to accept ‘qualified electronic signatures’, which will further improve security and remove the need for a witness altogether.”
This post has originally been featured in Property Wire.