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Virtual signing for property transactions during the coronavirus pandemic

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Virtual signing for property transactions during the coronavirus pandemic

As much as we have been operating ‘business as usual’ during lockdown, the need for social distancing has, naturally, impacted the process for signing and returning original legal documents to solicitors.

Without signed original legal documents, solicitors have been unable to complete property transactions in the usual way, if at all, and this has caused challenges in keeping property transactions moving during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Land Registry have adapted to this challenge by introducing a temporary measure to allow deeds to be signed using the “mercury signing approach”. This approach is effective from 4th May 2020 and allows solicitors to complete property transactions on the basis of scanned signature pages. ​Prior to this, solicitors would need to be physically holding an original signed document in order to complete a transaction and then to submit an application to register the transaction at the Land Registry.

How can I virtually sign deeds using the mercury signing approach?

Both parties must agree to use the mercury signing approach and follow these steps:

  • Step 1- The final documents are emailed to each party by their solicitor.
  • Step 2- Each party prints the signature page only (rather than the full document as would usually be required)
  • Step 3- Each party signs the signature page in the physical presence of a witness (it is important to note that this must still be a ‘wet’ signature and electronic signatures cannot be accepted)
  • Step 4- The witness signs the same signature page.
  • Step 5- Each party then emails their conveyancer attaching the agreed copy of the transfer and a PDF/JPEG copy of the signed signature page.
  • Step 6- Solicitors can then proceed to complete the transaction.
  • Step 7- Post-completion, the solicitor can now apply to the register the transaction at the Land Registry using the agreed copy of the transfer and the signed signature pages from both parties, avoiding the need to have to wait for original legal documents to arrive.

The use of the mercury signing approach is a welcome change as we all adapt to new ways of working. The change may only be temporary, but will certainly expedite the way we complete property transactions for the time being.

If you would like to speak to a solicitor about this may impact your property transaction, our team are on hand to assist and offer advice and support.

Get in touch with us today:

☎️ 023 8022 1344

📧 contact@duttongregory.co.uk