The Land registry have announced some new temporary rules regarding the signing of documents aimed at easing property transactions during the pandemic.
A lot of property documents, including transfers (the document completed when you buy or sell a property) and leases, must be deeds to be effective. There are various rules that have to be complied with in relation to deeds, the most significant of which is that each party who signs a deed must do so in the presence of a witness. In addition, the Land Registry have always required that a deed which needs to be registered with them, must be a “wet ink” document i.e. a document which has been circulated to each party in turn to be signed and witnessed using a pen. Both these requirements can be problematic in the current socially distanced climate.
In order to make it easier for transactions to be completed, the Land Registry are now allowing signatures to be witnessed by an adult family member of a signing party (provided the witness is not also a party to the transaction). A witness is still required to be physically present when a party signs a document and it still cannot accept “virtual witnessing” (i.e. via Skype or other video call). The Land Registry have now confirmed that it will be ok for a document to be witnessed with a house or car window (or something similar) dividing the signing party and the witness provided the witness can see the party actually sign the document.
The Land Registry have also relaxed the rules requiring “wet ink” documents being the only ones allowed for registration. It is now possible to use electronic signing rules which already apply to other forms of document. Under these rules, it is possible for a party to receive an emailed version of the document which need to be signed. They must then print the signature page and sign it in the presence of a witness (taking into account the relaxation of these rules above). They can then take a photo of the signature page or scan it in and send it back to their solicitor. A version of the document with all the necessary signature pages attached to it can then be completed and sent to the Land Registry for registration.
These are temporary regulations will help push property transactions over the line more quickly and safely whilst we are all taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
If you have any questions of this or require any advice please get in touch with a member of our commercial team.