0370 270 6000

already registered?

Please sign in with your existing account details.

need to register?

Register to access exclusive content, sign up to receive our updates and personalise your experience on brownejacobson.com.

Privacy statement - Terms and conditions

electronic signatures in conveyancing - an update

29 July 2020

We mentioned in our article on 10 July here that the Land Registry had published draft guidance setting out the basis on which it will accept for registration transfers (and certain other deeds) that have been signed electronically.

That guidance has now been finalised after a short informal consultation and the Land Registry has momentously confirmed that it will accept electronic signatures from 27 July 2020. The Land Registry’s requirements have not changed significantly from those summarised in our earlier article. However, where a witness is required, the process to be followed now allows as an alternative for the signatory to input the witnesses’ details (rather than those details being provided to the electronic signature platform at the outset by the conveyancer). This is a welcome change and reflects the fact that, at the outset, a signatory may well not know who they will ask to witness their signature.

The Land Registry does still require a one-time password to be sent by text message by the platform to a witness before a witness signs and adds their details to a document. This is potentially an issue where the platform used by a conveyancer does not currently offer this functionality. It is possible to circumvent this by treating the witness as if they were a party to the deed and providing their details to the platform at the outset, but this may raise significant confidentiality issues on certain transactions, as it may mean that the platform automatically sends the witness a copy of the completed document once it has been signed and dated.

Hopefully the platform providers can find a way to quickly and simply resolve this issue as it could potentially prevent wholesale adoption of electronic signatures by the real estate industry at a time when it is crying out for such innovation. In the meantime, the use of electronic signatures for documents registered at the Land Registry may largely be limited to those where UK companies are a party, who can execute documents through the signatures of two directors (or one director and the company secretary) without needing a witness.

The Land Registry has also added a paragraph to its guidance advising conveyancers to retain a copy of the completion certificate or audit report produced by the electronic signature platform at the end of the signing process. Such a certificate or report should help to inspire confidence and security in the signing process, as it will provide an audit trail of the process (e.g. the time and date of the signatures, the email addresses the document was sent to, the one-time password method used, the fields that were completed and the IP addresses of the devices that were used).

As mentioned in our previous article, the Land Registry remains keen to go further and introduce qualified electronic signatures as soon as possible (which are potentially more secure and will remove the need for witnesses in all cases). As and when the Land Registry is able to get these up and running, it is likely that simpler electronic signatures (the subject of the current guidance) will cease to be accepted by the Land Registry (so they may only enjoy a short shelf-life for land registration purposes).

focus on...

Shining a light: practical tips around Chinese buyers investing in UK property

View our on-demand video. In these uncertain times, clarity is what people seek. That is why we are “Shining a Light” and providing some practical training as regards property ownership and tax in the UK.


Legal updates

Vodafone Ltd v Hanover Capital Ltd [2020] EW Misc 18 (CC)

The first reported case on how a court determines rent on the renewal of a lease of a telecommunications mast site under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 following the Electronic Communications Code 2017 coming into force.


Legal updates

EMI Group Ltd v The Prudential Assurance Company Ltd [2020] EWHC 2061 (Ch)

The court interprets the guarantee provisions in a lease to uphold their validity under the Landlord and Tenant (Covenants) Act 1995.


Legal updates

Peninsula Securities Ltd v Dunnes Stores (Bangor) Ltd [2020] UKSC 36

An exclusivity covenant given by a landlord of a shopping centre to an anchor tenant was not declared unenforceable under the common law doctrine of restraint of trade.


The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

David Harris

David Harris

Professional Development Lawyer

View profile

mailing list sign up

Select which mailings you would like to receive from us.

Sign up