May Ozga

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Temporary Changes by the Land Registry or is this the Future?

Property / 06 May 2020

Until now, for the purposes of dealing with the Land Registry’s requirements, a person’s identity had to be verified by a solicitor, conveyancer or legal executive.

However following the UK being plunged into the trials and tribulations arising from Covid-19, social distancing and self-isolation, the usual means for dealing with ID verification, the execution of documents and getting original wet-ink signature documents out to the various parties involved can be extremely challenging or impossible depending on the circumstances.

Since the lockdown, parties to property transactions have often flung their hands in frustration when dealing with property transactions and having regard to the Land Registry’s requirements and the formalities for dealing with deeds disposing of real property and real property contracts.

But perhaps we can all breathe some sigh of relief from Monday 4 May, when the Land Registry introduces temporary changes in respect of verifying a person’s identity and for signing deeds.

Verification of Identity
In addition to solicitors, conveyancers and chartered legal executives, verification can now be undertaken by people who work, or have worked, in certain professions including:

– retired conveyancers, chartered legal executives, solicitors and barristers
– bank officials and regulated financial advisers
– medical doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons
– chartered and certified accountants
– police officers and officers in the UK armed forces
– teachers and college and university teaching staff
– Members of Parliament and Welsh Assembly members
– UK civil servants of senior executive officer (SEO) grade or above
– magistrates

Reflecting the need for people to have the ability to deal with matters virtually, the verification will also be able to be done by way of a video call for example Facetime or Zoom.

Note that the Land Registry’s current position is that the changes mentioned above will only be temporary so it may well be that once lockdown restrictions have eased considerably and the world goes “back to normal” the changes will be withdrawn.

Changes in relation to the signing of deeds

Until now, parties dealing with real property transactions were expected to hold an entire whole pdf  of the final version of the contract or deed including the signature page. From 4th May 2020 HM Land Registry will accept deeds that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’. This means that, for land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page. Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.

The Land Registry will be issuing more details on 4th May. They say that the changes are temporary but will they one day see that this should be a permanent change so that it finally catches up with the modern world? Watch this space!

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