Deputy Chief Land Registrar discusses decision to accept electronic signatures for registration at HMLR

Deputy Chief Land Registrar discusses decision to accept electronic signatures for registration at HMLR

Mike ​Harlow, General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar at HM Land Registry (HMLR) explains why HMLR is now accepting for registration documents executed using electronic signatures and discusses plans to accept qualified electronic signatures in future.

Why are you proposing to accept electronic signatures now and will this be a temporary concession?

It is important to understand that there are two quite distinct types of electronic signature which HMLR has considered.

The first type we call a witnessed electronic signature, which is simply an electronic signature in the place where in a deed you would currently sign with wet ink. So, a witness is still required where someone is signing in their own name.

The Law Commission’s September 2019 report, Electronic execution of documents, brought clarity on their legality and set us thinking about how they might be deployed securely within the conveyancing process. That has since been spurred on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis with most conveyancers working from home and understandably wanting to know how and when we might introduce their use. 

The second type are digital signatures for which the Land Registration Act 2002 (LRA 2002) provides a specific mechanism that allows them to be used in deeds that require registration. We actually use digital signatures at the moment in our ‘digital mortgage&rsquo

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