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Covid prompts changes to verification when signing deeds.

The government has relaxed the rules on identity verification in property transactions and signing deeds for land registration purposes.

The temporary changes came into effect on 4 May in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In addition to conveyancers and chartered legal executives, verification can now be undertaken by people who work, or have worked, in certain professions including:

• retired conveyancers, chartered legal executives, solicitors and barristers
• bank officials and regulated financial advisers
• medical doctors, dentists and veterinary surgeons
• chartered and certified accountants
• police officers and officers in the UK armed forces
• teachers and college and university teaching staff
• MPs and Welsh Assembly members
• UK civil servants of senior executive officer (SEO) grade or above
• magistrates.

The verification can also be done by way of a video call.

HM Land Registry will also accept deeds that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’.

This means that, for land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page.

Each party then sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, HM Land Registry is regularly reviewing its practice, policy and procedures, taking guidance from customer feedback.

We shall keep clients informed of developments.

Please contact us if you would like advice about the legal aspects of buying or selling a home.