We made a breakthrough year ago by allowing deeds that were signed electronically to be registered. This was the first time that non-mortgage documents signed using an electronic signature could be registered in the history of HM Land Registry.
We are encouraged by the efforts of signature platforms and technology companies to create products that comply with practice guide 8 section 13 so that they can be used.
Our digital mortgage service also accepts electronic signatures. Sign your mortgage deed today, which has helped many homeowners remortgage quickly in 2020.
An end to lockdown but only the beginning of electronic signatures
While electronic signatures were a convenient way to sign a deed during the pandemic, they play a greater role in future land registration.
- Electronic signatures offer more security and assurance than a traditional wet signature on a paper document. They also provide cost efficiency and environmental benefits.
- These are the keys to unlocking digital conveyancing's future.
- Machine-readable electronic signatures are possible, which makes them more useful for automating new processes.
- You can validate their security features digitally. This eliminates the need to perform manual reviews or checks and gives you greater assurance.
- They may also provide verification of the identity of signers in certain cases.
They can be combined with a digitally generated deed and digitally verified identity check to streamline the registration and application process.
Exploring qualified electronic signatures
Electronic signatures alone will not change the entire process, as we know. Although electronic signatures can be used to sign documents in minutes and eliminate the need for posting documents, they are still required to be witnessed if they are applied to deeds.
But, there's a better electronic signature that could really make a difference.
We discussed last year a type of electronic signature known as a "qualified electronic signature" and how it could be used to replace the requirement for witnessing. A sophisticated electronic signature can be used in a document as if it were an actual deed. However, Section 91 of 2002's Land Registration Act allows this type of electronic signature to be used without the need for witnessing.
A qualified trust service provider verifies your identity when you sign documents using an electronic signature. This could replace the assurance provided by the witness. The eIDAS legislation outlines strict standards for qualified trust service providers when verifying identity and signing documents.
We continue to investigate this option and have made great progress in understanding the criteria that might be required for HM Land Registry being able to accept them. If qualified electronic signatures are to be a viable solution for conveyancers, we have identified some areas that need development.
We want providers to make identity verification as simple as possible and offer products that can meet the needs of conveyancers and clients.
The Information Commissioner's Office approved the UK's first certified trust service provider earlier this month. This opens up new opportunities for digital tool developers.
Qualified electronic signatures are still a new technology. We want to make sure that everyone in the property market has access to it. Our standard must be interoperable between providers so that everyone can trust their signature's security and useability, no matter what platform they choose to sign.
We would like to try qualified electronic signatures in a limited number of companies. We can then learn more about their benefits and the constraints that we must consider before we publish our draft practice.
This will be covered in more detail soon. For now, you can read about the different types of applications that can use electronic signatures. Also, watch our video to learn the difference between qualified electronic signatures (see also: witnessed electronic signatures) and electronic signatures (qualified electronic signatures).