HM Land Registry has begun accepting witnessed electronic signatures for deeds such as mortgages, leases and property ownership transfers.
According to the Land Registry, the change will make it “simpler and faster” for people to move home.
Electronic signatures are being accepted as of yesterday (July 27) as an alternative to wet-ink signatures, although deeds must still be signed in the physical presence of a witness.
Simon Hayes, chief executive and chief land registrar at HM Land Registry, said: “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.”
HM Land Registry said it is also holding discussions with the industry to explore the potential introduction of qualified electronic signatures as soon as practicable.
It said if they proved to be successful for completing property transactions it would review the continued use of witnessed electronic signatures.
Meanwhile work is 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 conveyancers O’Neill Patient, said: “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.”