Copyright Moore Barlow LLP (Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins merged May 2020)

The centuries old system of signing and witnessing deeds in property transactions

On 5 April 2018, the Land Registry registered the first digitally signed mortgage deed.

The new ‘Sign Your Mortgage Deed’ system for the signing of deeds negates the requirement for a witness to physically watch a borrower sign the deed. The system has been designed to prevent property fraud by having identity verification take place at the point of signature by “GOV.UK Verify” and also aims to assist in increasing the speed of transactions.

Months of trials with Coventry Building Society and Enact Conveyancing were undertaken before completion of the first transaction. Although this initiative has started with re-mortgages it is likely to be extended to purchases in the future.

The digital signature development follows the Land Registry’s 2017-2022 Business Strategy which includes a strong “digital” theme. Their overriding ambition is “to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data”. This new system shows the Land Registry’s willingness to make big changes in order to achieve this.

John Abbott, Director of Digital Services for the Land Registry, has recently written a blog focussing on their digital services for the future. It further confirms their commitment to improving the digital services currently offered. It includes details on the Sign Your Mortgage Deed development as well as Digital Street, a development and research project that is exploring how land registration might work in 2030 and beyond.

Whether digitalisation will be embraced by other lenders, lawyers and purchasers remains to be seen.

The full blog by John Abbott can be found here: https://hmlandregistry.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/07/flexible-digital-services/.

For more information on GOV.UK Verify please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/introducing-govuk-verify/introducing-govuk-verify


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