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The Land Registry has launched the process needed to transform itself into an entirely digital platform. It has released a consultation on proposals for amending the Land Registration Rules 2003
(SI 2003/1417), with a closing date of 5 April 2017. These proposals concern structural overhauls that would facilitate the Land Registry moving away from more traditional methods in a clear attempt to modernise itself to keep up with technology.

What are the proposals?

Some of the key proposals are as follows:

  • allowance for fully digital conveyancing documents with e-signatures
  • introduction of new statutory services
  • allowance for more flexibility with regard to opening hours for business and the public
  • update the Rules to reflect modernisation and simplification of the services
  • small improvements to assist customers and correct clerical errors contained in the Rules.

One of the major proposals is Proposal A. This relates to the transition to fully digital conveyancing documents.

Proposal A: Fully digital conveyancing documents

The Land Registry wishes to allow for the introduction of fully digital conveyancing documents and registration. These would include e-signatures and would be used for land transactions and land registration. A significant change in this area would be the treatment of mortgages. Under section 52 of the Law of Property Act 1925, mortgages must be made by a deed. With the introduction of e-signatures, electronic documents would be able to constitute deeds. The proposal would allow electronic registration to be carried out purely using electronic signatures.

The Chief Land Registrar, Graham Farrant has said “The amendments will make it simpler and quicker to interact with us and will allow us all to benefit from digital technology.

Initially the change to electronic mortgages will only concern mortgages where there is no change of ownership, for example with the registered proprietor simply completing a new mortgage or re-mortgaging their property. However, once this service has been established the Land Registry intends to introduce further developments concerning mortgages for corporate borrowers.
The e-mortgage would commence with the conveyancer creating the electronic mortgage deed using the Land Registry’s service. This would then be passed onto the borrower who would sign the deed electronically.

These are all movements towards documentation that is organised purely electronically with transfers and even leases being introduced if a demand is evident.

Thoughts

These proposals are all based on the aim to improve communication and enable parties to benefit from advantages that come with a digital system, such as usability and speed.

However, there is trepidation that comes with the shift towards an entirely digital platform. Concern has already been demonstrated with regard to fraud and as to whether an electronic signature has the same worth as a physical signature.

The Land Registry has attempted to appease the public stating “This is not a radical review… the proposed rule amendments are the minimum we think needed to enable us to pursue our new Business Strategy.

Ultimately, regardless of the outcome from this consultation, there is no question that modernisation is dictating the way in which land registration is being both viewed and dealt with. With this consultation demonstrating the desire to transcend into a fully digital platform, will it soon be time to put the pen down for good?

For further information regarding this topic or any other property and construction matter, please contact Ian Gilmour – Partner, or any member of Edwin Coe Property team.

Edwin Coe LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership, registered in England & Wales (No.OC326366). The Firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of members of the LLP is available for inspection at our registered office address: 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, London, WC2A 3TH. “Partner” denotes a member of the LLP or an employee or consultant with the equivalent standing.

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