Executing deeds the 'Mercury' way

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05 May, 2020

This is an addendum to our article "Registered Providers - are E-signatures a valid option as a contingency for COVID-19?" published 20 March 2020, particularly in respect of execution of transfer and other dispositionary deeds further to Land Registry's guidance published 04 May 2020.

Summary of Land Registry Guidance

With effect from 4 May 2020, HM Land Registry introduced the 'Mercury Signing Approach' for executing deeds. This involves the signature page of the transfer or dispositionary deed to be signed in pen and physically witnessed by a person (the signature still CANNOT be witnessed via a video call).

The signed execution page is then captured with a scanner or camera in a PDF, JPEG or other suitable format. The final agreed copy of the transfer or dispositionary deed along with a copy of the signed signature page is then emailed by each party to their conveyancer / solicitor.

This approach is based on the principle advocated by the Law Society and subsequently the Law Commission in the report entitled "Electronic execution of documents", published in September 2019 in circumstances where the parties where not all present on completion of a transaction.

Until further notice, the Land Registry will accept a transfer or other dispositionary deed (for the purposes of registration) signed in accordance with the 'Mercury Signing Approach'. This involves the following steps to be taken:

Step 1:

Final agreed copies of the transfer / dispositionary deed are emailed to each party by their respective 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:

The final agreed copy of the transfer / dispositionary deed along with the copy of the signed signature page (pdf / jpeg /other suitable format) is emailed by each party to their respective conveyancer (this must be done in a single email).

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 along with the signed signature page (this must be in a single document).

Step 8:

The application is processed by the Land Registry following the standard operating procedure.

What does this mean for the Housing Sector?

The Law Society welcomes the new development and is of the view that the changes are likely to ease pressure on the housing market, although it must be noted that this is a temporary measure and may be repealed by the Land Registry at any time.

In relation to execution of deeds, it is important to note that the parties' respective conveyancers will clearly need to agree to the 'Mercury Signing Approach' before beginning the process as outlined above.

The combining of the final agreed version of the transfer / dispositionary deed and signature pages as outlined in STEP 7 above may be done by either electronically combining the document or printing out the pages of both documents and then physically combining and scanning them in as a single document. The aim behind this is to speed up the registration process.

The signatories must still ensure that they are familiar with and adhere to the specific requirements as set out in their respective constitutions / rules in relation to executing deeds.

The witnessing of the signature is required in exactly the same way as it has been prior to the revised guidance for any document to constitute a deed. The signature must still be in pen and witnessed in person. The witnessing CANNOT take place via a video call, which is proving the difficult element for Registered Providers (particularly those utilising seals) under the current lockdown situation.

How can we help?

Our Housing & Regeneration Team really is a one-stop shop with experts in all aspects of law relevant to the sector. For advice and/or more information please contact Jennifer Hankinson via email on Jennifer Hankinson or call 01254 222 417 or contact Andrea James on andrea.james@forbessolicitors.co.uk or call 01772 220 206. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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