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The rules on execution of Land Registry documents have changed, which will help address the challenges of working remotely. In this article we cover the practical impact of some of the key changes.
On 4 May 2020, the Land Registry published guidance stating it would accept deeds signed using the “Mercury signing approach”.
The Land Registry has also produced step-by-step guidance on how to adopt this process. The key points are that each party will need to sign and have witnessed their own copy of the signature page of the document. They will then send this page via email to their conveyancer along with a complete copy of the final agreed document. The conveyancer will then combine the signed page with the document and submit the combined document to the Land Registry as one document.
All the parties must be represented by conveyancers and agree to this arrangement for it to be accepted by the Land Registry.
This method will be applicable for deeds affecting dispositions of registered and unregistered land, discharges of charges (DS3s and DS1s), and powers of attorney other than lasting powers of attorney.
It is important to note that the witnessing must be done in person, rather than by video call. However, the relevant legislation does not prevent a signatory’s spouse, civil partner or cohabitee from acting as a witness (if they are not a party to a deed). The Land Registry has also suggested that there is no reason why the witness and signatory cannot be separated by glass. This would allow a signature to be witnessed by someone looking through a car or house window, provided they were then able to see clearly the signatory signing.
The Land Registry has clarified that where a plan is required, that plan can be signed by the conveyancer acting as an agent using a typed signature on the plan, or the parties to the deed can type their name on the plan by way of signature before returning the final agreed copy of the deed and signature page.
If a company is executing by way of one director in the presence of a witness then that director needs to sign the document with the witness physically present. If the company is executing by two directors (for which a witness is not required), those directors can sign separate pages, following the Mercury protocol, without their individual signatures being witnessed.
In these circumstances it is possible to sign as part of a chain whereby the first director prints, signs and scans their signature page and the entire document to the second director and solicitor. The second director then prints, signs and scans their signature page and sends it back to the first director and solicitor.
It is worth noting that, at this point in time, the Land Registry will not accept electronic signatures on deeds affecting registered land.
Docusign is a platform that enables the uploading of documents to a site so that they can be signed electronically by various recipients.
Care should be taken when using this method of signing as it will not apply where wet ink signatures are required and it cannot be used for Land Registry documents.
However, it can be used in the execution of certain documents, provided that the person signing the document intends to authenticate that document and the formalities relating to the execution of that document are satisfied. It is also important to note that a witness still needs to be present alongside the party signing to witness their electronic signature. As outlined above, the witness can be a family member, etc., so long as they are not a party to the document itself.
This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please contact our specialist lawyers to discuss any issues you are facing.