Qualified Electronic Signatures - the real gamechanger?

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30 September, 2021

The Land Registry (HMLR) is to pilot the use of qualified electronic signatures (QES) that does not need to be witnessed. If successful, it is set to be a real gamechanger in the property market.

The move comes just over a year after HMLR allowed deeds to be signed electronically to be registered, albeit like other signatures, it still required a witness which limited its potential.

On 16 September 2021, the first property transaction using the new Land Registry approved 'QES signature' was completed. Whilst the pilot is currently only for residential transactions, it is hoped that a similar solution for commercial transactions will follow shortly.

Section 91 of the Land Registration Act 2002 allows for rules to be made so that an advanced type of electronic signature such as the QES to be used in a document that operates a deed without the need for a witness.

QES, a more advanced type of electronic signature is different to other electronic signatures. It does not require a witness, as the identity is verified by a 'qualified trust service provider' that provides an independent identity check as part of the process. The qualified trust service provider must meet a strict set of standards outlined in legislation known as eIDAS. QES could be seen as providing greater assurance and security when compared to a wet ink signature, in addition to being quicker, more sustainable, and potentially cheaper.

The very first property transaction, using QES, took 24 hours from QES signing, registration at HMLR and transfer of the title becoming legally effective - a transaction without QES, would usually take place in a period of between 6 - 8 weeks.

The Land Registry envisages that QESs will be introduced by the end of 2021/22 to make the signing process in property transactions easier.

Andrea James.

For futher information please contact the Housing Property Team on 0800 689 0831 or send an email here.

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