Gumersalls Solicitors Epsom News

The signing and the witnessing of key conveyancing documents can now take place the same day in 80 per cent of cases, claims digital signature software firm DocuSign, with the latest step towards fully digitised and fast conveyancing following the launch of the company’s new electronic ‘witnessed signatures system’.

Public Technology reports that the new system was revealed recently during a Zoom event, and both DocuSign and HM Land Registry said the development would help ease one of the major bottlenecks in the conveyancing process – contact signing.

It is hoped the new system will also help prevent the delays seen in the rush to complete sales in the run-up to beat the previous stamp duty holiday deadline.

Katherine Crowley, Practice Development Manager at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, which has been trying out the tech, said “We believe this is a real game-changer for the residential property sector and lawyer are getting really excited about this in a way tech doesn’t usually engage them.”

She said that “it’s a win-win as far as we’re concerned,” explaining that due to a large number of documents in the property purchase process that can now all be signed or witnessed on the same day, mitigating the ‘long-winded explanations’ about how the process works, which previous technology would require the conveyancer to do.

Crowley added during the launch event that by using e-signatures and virtual witnessing, Womble Bond Dickinson was able to process and turn around 80 per cent of required documents within the same day.

“If we were still relying on paper, then it would be between two days and a week to get a signature back; the DocuSign system has speeded things up enormously.”

She said the new system, being entirely digital, meant that tracking the conveyancing process is now much easier too.

“When people are on your back asking when they are going to complete, with ‘wet signatures’ you really didn’t know whereas now we can give an accurate answer by looking at the dashboard.”

Homebuyers will now be able to use their smartphones to prove their identity remotely, using near-field communication (NFC) technology, which is integrated into smartphones and allows devices to read chips embedded in passports, for example.

Doug Luftman from DocuSign, said: “Manual witnessing has always added an additional layer of complexity, often leading to protracted completion. This has been heightened by the pandemic, which is why property lawyers breathed a sigh of relief when the Land Registry announced changes in regulation that would allow the use of electronic witnessed signatures (WES).”

HM Land Registry will be working closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is currently working on the development of a digital identity framework that the government intends to be used throughout the economy.

It added that it “will continue to develop and tailor the standard by widening the scope to incorporate different legal entities,” and will also explore the availability of more enhanced digital means of obtaining evidence to link the party to the transaction with the particular property.

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