The Land Registry is now accepting electronic signatures so long as they have been witnessed by another individual who also signs the document electronically.
New guidance has been published for conveyancers on the changes.
The process will involve a conveyancer uploading the deed to an online platform which sends a link to the signatories.
Once they have completed the necessary authentication checks, they would then ‘sign’ the document electronically in the physical presence of the witness who then also signs.
The conveyancer is then notified that the signing process has been concluded and, once they have effected completion of the deed, can submit the completed deed to HM Land Registry with their application for registration.
In every case the online platform would need to include two-factor authentication to confirm the signatories and witness accessing the deed and provide assurance that unique individuals have signed.
Land Registry chief executive and chief land registrar Simon Hayes says: “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.
“The more sophisticated qualified electronic signatures are a part of that vision and encouraging those is where our attention will be directed next. “I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our consultation on the guidance.
“This has helped to ensure this new witnessed electronic signature process works for everyone.”
Conveyancing firm O’Neill Patient’s managing director Adam Forshaw says: “This is a significant step forward for homebuyers, as it means that in principle the entire home buying journey can now be conducted electronically.
“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.
“We look forward to working with them on their additional proposals to accept ‘qualified electronic signatures’, which will further improve security and remove the need for a witness altogether.”
Qualified electronic signatures would operate on the basis that an organisation entrusted by the Land Registry has standards in place to securely verify the identity of the signatory and protect the integrity of the document.