Is Paperless Conveyancing on its way?

During the pandemic the UK government introduced the Stamp Duty holiday to stimulate the property market, which subsequently led to 165% increase in transactions. Historically, the registration of purchases at HM Land Registry had been paper based, but the impact of the pandemic’s widespread remote working and travel limitations has fundamentally changed conveyancing as we knew it and has driven the sector towards digitalisation.

According to Rightmove ‘From the time a home is marked sale agreed, in 2022 it was taking 150 days on average to reach that all-important completion day. But that’s 50 days longer than the average time to sell a house during the same period in 2019.’

The Stamp duty holiday backlog caused a floodgate of registrations being sent to HM Land Registry, causing an average 2 year delay for buyers when registering their property purchase. To help, HM Land Registry (HMLR) are transitioning from a paper based process to digitalisation in order to achieve; service speed, simplicity and an open approach to data. This in turn will support delivery of its services swiftly and even in periods of high demand, therefore, avoiding backlog. It is also proposed that digitalisation will cut out extensive delays in applications caused by avoidable errors in applications.

HMLR have suggested secure paperless buying and selling of property ‘could be the norm’ by 2024-25 in their latest strategy, ‘Enabling a world-leading property market, Strategy 2022+’. They further aspire to invite the UK property sector ‘to work in partnership to create a simpler, paperless and transparent process for buying and selling property which will benefit homeowners across the country’.

HMLR propose to achieve their outcomes by transformation to an entirely digital process for buying and selling property; become fully digital and easily connected to other digital components of the property market and promoting a secure and inclusive digital system of conveyancing with common date and connectivity standards.

They have published a roadmap to present the proposed changes between 2022 and 2027 (see here – page 7).

HMLR are encouraging the property market to adopt new technology, such as digital identity verification and e-signatures for transaction documents to enable the paperless process.

Furthermore, TLR are proposing to increase integration of their services with other conveyancing platforms and systems, using standard data and connection settings. HMLR have also suggested their services will be accessible through a mix of channels including mobile applications. By implementing digital identity checking and electronic signatures, tHMLR open the doors by removing the last strict requirements for paper in a property transaction.

HMLR’s new technology offers time saving elements in what can be a lengthy process, for example uploading ID digitally, is time efficient and simplifies use for all parties including, the conveyancers. Additionally, allowing parties to access their services through various channels, such as mobile apps, means that parties can remain informed throughout the transaction.

Notwithstanding the benefits, e-signatures are prone to fraud, and make the process vulnerable to interference by cyber-criminals. Questions many are asking are: How can The Land Registry ensure that the signature is genuine and authentic? And, how can they ensure security if e-signatures can be easily accessed by anyone?

Our large conveyancing team works closely with clients to enable a speedy and accessible service. We accept electronic ID for Money laundering checks and we ask clients for four pieces of ID when sent electronically to eliminate the possibility of fraud – ensuring security and time efficiency. Furthermore, we have a comprehensive smart search system, and our staff are extensively trained to identify any suspicious ID. Therefore, clients are not required to attend our office unless they wish to do so. However, we do not accept electronically signed Transfer or mortgage deeds.

The quest for paperless conveyancing has seen several false starts over the past two decades, with some elements making successful breakthroughs such as E-AP1’s and digital ID verification due to the Stamp Duty holiday. However some technology is still under consideration due to its sensitive nature and the catastrophic effects it would have if not secure. Trial and error, like in most cases will guide the future of the Land Registry’s proposals.

If you are about to embark on a house sale or purchase, please feel free to contact one of our experienced conveyancing team members in any of our three offices. The quickest route is to fill in our ‘contact us’ form, and one of our team will be in touch.