As people and businesses continue to adapt and find new ways of working following the COVID-19 outbreak, on 4th May 2020, the Land Registry introduced temporary changes to processes including identity verification and signing deeds.
These changes are intended to provide applicants with an alternative way to comply with existing Land Registry requirements that, in the normal course of business, would require the applicant to come into contact with others.
Changes to Identity Verification
Land and buildings are usually the most valuable assets that people own and due to their ability to be sold or mortgaged to raise money, they are attractive targets for fraudsters. To combat registration fraud, the Land Registry impose certain procedures which require the parties identities to be verified by a conveyancer.
Such verification is usually done either by submitting the application to the Land Registry on behalf of a client, or by providing evidence of identity for an unrepresented person involved in a transaction using form ID1 or form ID2.
Under the temporary changes, the Land Registry will enable applications to be made by parties whose identity has been verified by a ‘non-conveyancer’ using Land Registry forms ID3 or ID4, provided that the verifier is not a relative and falls within a defined list of professionals (including teacher, dentist, police offer etc).
The Land Registry has also extended the ability to verify identity by video call, provided that certain conditions are met.
Where the verifier is a conveyancer and the customer’s identity has been verified via video call, they must complete an ID5 form in addition to the ID1 or ID2 form and take and retain a screenshot photograph of the person whose identity they are verifying.
- The person whose identity is to be verified, and the verifier must both hold a current valid UK full passport.
- They must have known each other for at least one year.
- They must both provide a copy of the personal details page of their passport.
- A screenshot photograph taken during the video call showing the faces of both people must be provided.
With regards to the video call, the Land Registry does not require this to take place by any particular service, provider or device. They do, however, require the screenshot of the call to be in colour and, where the verifier is a ‘non-conveyancer’, clearly show the faces of both people looking straight at the camera to enable a comparison with the photographs on the passports. Where the verification is being carried out by a conveyancer, the screenshot photograph should only be of the person whose identity is being verified.
Given the practicalities of verifying identification in the current climate, the Land Registry will also allow applications to temporarily be submitted without evidence or confirmation of identity until further notice.
Changes to Signing Deeds
The Land Registry will now also accept transfers that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’ which allows them to be executed by virtual means if the parties are not all present on completion of a transaction.
In practice, this means that final agreed copies of the transfer are emailed to each party by their conveyancer who will in turn print and sign the signature page of the deed in pen whilst having their signature witnessed in person (not by a video call).
The parties will then capture the signed signature page with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy before emailing it back to their conveyancer along with the final agreed copy of the document.
The conveyancer will then combine the scanned signature page with the final agreed document before completing the transaction and registering it at the Land Registry.