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Land Registry offers ‘error-free’ application service and witness-free e-signatures

By Michael Cross >>

An online service allowing conveyancers to make up to 10 changes to a title at a time went live on 6 September 2021 in HM Land Registry’s latest step towards becoming an all-digital organisation. The Digital Registration Service replaces the electronic document registration service (e-DRS) for registered portal users, the registry said. 

According to the announcement, the service makes it easier to submit applications and reduce errors by:

  • Automatically working out fees
  • Comparing information with the Land Register as it is entered to check for errors
  • Providing guidance and prompts on screen to remind users to add the required evidence
  • Automatically populating some fields based on data already entered, or from the Land Register
  • Prompting users if more information or supporting evidence is required to support an application
  • Allowing users to save a partially completed application, and return to it within 90 calendar days to submit

The service allows conveyancers to submit an e-AP1 for 90 register update transactions, including change of ownership. Up to 10 transactions can be entered against a single title in one application. 

In a futher development, Land Registry has revealed that it is inviting ‘a small number’ of conveyancing firms to test its next generation of electronic signatures, which will not require a witness. So-called qualified electronic signatures, first announced last year are verified by a ‘qualified trust service provider’ instead of a witness.

In a blog post, Michael Abraham, product owner at Land Registry, said such signatures will be legally valid: ‘Section 91 of the Land Registration Act 2002 allows for a sophisticated electronic signature of this nature to be used in a document that operates as if it were a deed but, not being an actual deed, the document can be signed without the need for a witness.’

However, he stressed the need for caution in the technology’s adoption. ‘As qualified electronic signatures are a relatively new technology, we want to ensure those in the property market can use it. We need to ensure that our standard supports interoperability between providers, so everyone can trust the security and usability of their signature, regardless of which platform they wish to use for signing.’

He added: ‘We are keen to test the use of qualified electronic signatures with a small number of firms. From this we can learn more about the benefits they offer and any constraints we need to consider.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)