At the start of many property transactions, we see clients come in with a bundle of Deeds and documents embossed with historic stamps, tinted with a yellow hue through age and scrawled in the most exquisite calligraphy. These old property Deeds carry so much nostalgia, and are often reminders of the history of the house. Although these relics might look vital to the property transaction, they mostly serve to be largely sentimental; a nice thing to pass on to your buyer.
Currently, most Deeds, Conveyances, Leases and Agreements for every registered property or land in England and Wales are all available online at the Land Registry. The Law Society’s Conveyancing Protocol states that the entries in the Deeds need to be less than 6 months old when the contract is submitted to your buyer’s solicitor. So, although you may have your Deeds from 2004, we are required to get more up to date copies to send to your buyer’s solicitor, and this is now all downloaded (together with any other relevant documents) instantly and electronically at the Land Registry. Many documents we submit to the Land Registry, however, are still in paper format. For example, you are obliged to sign certain documents and your buyer’s solicitor will scan a certified copy to the Land Registry when it comes to registering the property.
Although property documents and data are already widely available online, the Land Registry has now announced that as of 6th April 2018, there will be no need for any paper deeds during a property transaction and all conveyancing documents will be digitalised. This means that there will be no paper versions of transfers and mortgage deeds that have previously need to be signed and witnessed; these will instead be signed using ‘e-signatures’.
While full details aren’t available yet and I am sure we will learn more as the process starts to be implemented, this revision is intended to make the conveyancing process even simpler and faster than before. And, despite having ‘e-signatures’ for something so important seem daunting in the face of a world threatened by cyber-crime, the Land Registry will at the same time be strengthening the security of the Register and implementing measures to further protect from digital fraud.
It will be interesting to see how this plan of action will affect the conveyancing process. It is certainly a step in the direction of further modernising the way property changes hands and will hopefully simplify registrations and make the process more efficient.