Signing of Conveyancing Documents During Lockdown

The Land Registry have announced that from 4 May 2020, they will accept Deeds using what is known as the “Mercury” method. What does this mean for people buying a property?

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Signing of Conveyancing Documents During Lockdown

The Land Registry have announced that from 4 May 2020, they will accept Deeds using what is known as the “Mercury” method. What does this mean for people buying a property?

What documents do I need to sign to buy a house?

There are normally several documents that need to be signed. Typically, these can be split in to two different sets of forms to be signed. The first of these are “administrative” signatures which allow solicitors to act on your behalf and progress the transaction. By signing terms of business with a law firm, you are agreeing to the circumstances in which they will act on your behalf and allow them to move forward with the purchase. The second set of documents are the “legal” documents that allow your house purchase to legally take place, some of which are called Deeds.

What is a Deed in relation to buying a house?

A Deed is an official document that is used to transfer a property from one party to another, and also to secure a mortgage against the property. The Land Registry set out what is required to make a document a Deed, but when it comes to the signing of a Deed, fundamentally it must be signed in front of a witness and must be an original document for the purposes of registering it at the Land Registry (although law firms can provide a certified copy of the original to the Land Registry).

Can I sign the Conveyancing Documents remotely?

In these unusual times, conveyancers have been looking to make this as easy as possible, whilst staying within the rules set out by the Land Registry and any requirements a mortgage lender may have.

With regard to the administrative documents, law firms can generally take a view on the need for them to hold original signed documents. Here at Keebles, we have generally accepted that a scanned copy or photo of the administrative documents should be acceptable. This means that we can email our administrative documents to the client, who can print sign and scan/ email a photo of the signed documents.

However, the second set of documents, the “legal” documents, are a bit more complicated. These documents normally comprise the Contract for Sale, the Transfer Deed and the Mortgage Deed (when you are getting a mortgage).

Contract for Sale

It is possible for your solicitor to sign the Contract on your behalf. Whilst we have always tried to have the original wet signature document in our possession before exchanging a contract, in these times of remote working and social distancing, we can receive a photo of the signed Contract from the client, so we know that they agree to the terms, and then sign a copy ourselves on the clients behalf.

Transfer Deed

As this document is a Deed, it has always been necessary to have it witnessed and returned to the conveyancer. In recent weeks we have emailed Transfer Deeds to our clients to have them print and sign the document with a witness (normally witnessed through a window) and then returned in the post to us. However, the Land Registry have confirmed that as of 4 May 2020 they will accept a photograph of a correctly signed Deed, provided the below criteria is met:

  • STEP 1 – Final agreed copies of the transfer are emailed to each party by their conveyancer.
  • STEP 2 – Each party prints the signature page only.
  • STEP 3 – Each party signs the signature page in the physical presence of a witness.
  • STEP 4 – The witness signs the signature page.
  • STEP 5 – Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which are attached the final agreed copy of the transfer (see STEP 1) and a PDF/JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page.
  • STEP 6 – The conveyancing transaction is completed.
  • STEP 7 – The conveyancer applies to register the disposition and includes with the application the final agreed copy of the transfer and the signed signature page or pages in the form of a single document.

Signing a Mortgage Deed

Whilst the new Land Registry Mercury rules do not mention what kind of Deed the new rules apply to, a Mortgage Deed presents its own complication, namely will mortgage lenders be satisfied with a photo of a signed Mortgage Deed, rather than the original being in the hands of the lawyers.

So what does the change in signature requirements mean for conveyancers and their clients?

Here at Keebles we see this as a great step forward. It means that if you are buying without a mortgage, you do not have to physically return the Transfer Deed to your solicitors. However, if you are buying with a Mortgage, we will have to see if your lender will agree to the same method being used for their Mortgage Deed. Hopefully the big mortgage lenders will take a pragmatic approach to this, but we will have to wait and see!

Keebles are a proactive firm of solicitors offering a personal service at a great price. If you are moving house and wish to get a conveyancing quote, use our free online conveyancing quote tool or email conveyancingquotes@keebles.com.

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