Mercury signings for land registration a 'victory for common sense'
By Nicola Laver
HM Land Registry has announced it will now accept Mercury signings for deeds and make identity verification easier during the covid-19 crisis
HM Land Registry has announced it will now accept Mercury signings for deeds and make identity verification easier during the covid-19 crisis.
James Liffen, a partner in the residential group at Mishcon de Reya, welcomed the move which he described as “a victory for common sense”.
He said: “With everyone in lockdown, getting wet ink on signatures on transfers, mortgage deeds and leases was becoming increasingly difficult.
“Inevitably it led to a large number of non-essential journeys for clients or couriers and it also meant original documents were being sent to personal addresses, which obviously are less secure than a solicitor's office.”
The temporary change to the rules means that, for land registration purposes, the signature page of the deed must be signed in pen and witnessed in person (it must not be witnessed by way of video call).
The signature must then be captured with a scanner or a camera to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed page.
Each party must then send an email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.
Liffen said the Land Registry's concession is “overdue and only reflects the law, which has allowed for deeds being executed in this way for some time”.
"The Land Registry said they will accept the Mercury method 'until further notice'”, commented Liffen, “but we hope that they will stick with it in a move towards genuine e-conveyancing."
Land Registry has also widened the range of individuals who can verify people’s identity for land registration purposes during the pandemic crisis.
Non-conveyancers who are temporarily permitted to verify identity include former solicitors and barristers; magistrates; medical doctors and dentists; accountants; police and UK army officers; teachers and MPs.
Verification can be undertaken via video in accordance with prescribed requirements.
However, it has been made clear that both sets of changes are short-term only; and could be modified or withdrawn at short notice if they are considered to increase the risk of fraud to the register.