Land Registry – Temporary changes to help property transactions during Covid-19.
The Land Registry has been monitoring its practices and procedures and considering how it can assist property transactions during the COVID-19 outbreak. On the 1st of May 2020 the Land Registry announced that with effect from Monday the 4th of May 2020 it would accept documents for registration signed using the Mercury signing method.
This is another term for an ‘electronic signature’ and comes from the 2008 case of R (Mercury Tax Group Ltd) v HMRC  EWHC 2721 (Admin), where it was stated that ‘the signature and attestation must form part of the same document’, and therefore this type of signing became known as a ‘Mercury Signature’.
The use of the Mercury Signature should make it easier and quicker for parties to a property transaction to sign documents they receive by e-mail. It will remove the need for documents to be sent through the post and hopefully allow property transactions to move forwards more quickly and efficiently.
The parties to a document will receive the documents by e-mail from their solicitor and can simply print the signature page rather than the full document. It is important to note that the signature page must still be signed in pen by the parties and the signature witnessed in person. The witness must also sign the same signature page in the usual way. However, the parties to the transaction no longer need to post a complete signed copy of the document to their solicitor. Instead they can e-mail a copy of the signed signature page to their solicitor along with a complete copy of the final version of the document it relates to. The solicitor will then combine the signature page with a copy of the final version of the document to create a single document.
Verification of Identity
The Land Registry is also making it easier to verify someone’s identity for Land Registry applications. They are making temporary changes to their requirements and:
they will not automatically reject an application which is not accompanied by the necessary evidence or verification of the identity of the parties to the transaction being registered.
- they will accept completed Land Registry ID forms up to 6 months old (previously they had to be no more than 3 months old).
- a person’s identity can be verified by video call. A screenshot photo of the person has to be taken and retained and an additional Land Registry form completed, the ID5 Form.
- The list of people who can verify someone’s identify has been expanded and the list now includes:
- bank officials or regulated financial
- medical doctors
- chartered or certified accountants
- retired conveyancers, chartered legal executives, solicitors and barristers
- police officers
- veterinary surgeons
- members of parliament or Welsh Assembly members
- college and university teaching staff
- UK civil servant of senior executive officer (SEO) grade or above
- an officer in the UK armed forces
- The Land Registry has stressed this will be kept under review and is subject to change.