Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
10:37 AM 7th May 2020

Selling A House? Keebles Advise On The Witnessing Of Deeds During Lockdown

Mike Ramsden
Mike Ramsden
During the Covid-19 outbreak, selling and buying property has in some cases, been put on hold as people cannot have their identity verified and certain documents cannot be witnessed.

The Land Registry has announced that from 4 May it is introducing new temporary measures to make is easier to verify a person’s identity and to sign deeds.

Mike Ramsden, Operations Manager in the Residential team at leading Yorkshire law firm Keebles LLP, provides guidance for people selling, buying, re-mortgaging and moving forward with their transaction during this time.

Mr Ramsden said: “Previously, the Land Registry would only permit a solicitor, conveyancer or chartered legal executive to verify a person’s identity. The new temporary changes allow those who work, or have worked, in the following professions to verify someone’s identity: -

“Solicitors and barristers, bank officials, regulated financial advisors, doctors, dentists, veterinary surgeons, chartered and certified accountants, police officers and member of the UK armed forces, teachers and university teaching staff, MPs, UK Civil Servants of senior executive office grade or above and magistrates.

“There are normally several documents that need to be signed. In a typical sale and purchase transaction you will need to sign a Contract and Transfer Deed; and a Mortgage Deed if you are using mortgage finance to purchase a property.”

A Transfer Deed is an official document that is used to transfer a property from one party to another. A Mortgage Deed will secure a lender’s charge against the property. Both Deeds need to be registered at the Land Registry following completion.

He added: “The Land Registry’s guidance states that Deeds must be signed in front of a witness and must be submitted to them as an original document for the purposes of registration”.

However, the Land Registry introduced new temporary measures from 4 May stating that they will accept a photograph of a correctly signed Deed, provided the below criteria is met:

Agreed copies of the transfer are emailed to each party by their conveyancer.

Each party prints the signature page only.

Each party signs the signature page in the physical presence of a witness.

The witness completes the information on the signature page.

Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which are attached the final agreed copy of the transfer (see 1 above) and a PDF/JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page.

The conveyancing transaction is completed.

The conveyancer applies to register the transfer and includes with the application the final agreed copy of the transfer and the signed signature page or pages in the form of a single document.
Whilst the new rules do not define which Deeds they apply to, a Mortgage Deed may present its own complications, namely whether mortgage lenders will be satisfied with a copy of a signed Mortgage Deed, rather than the original, being in the hands of the conveyancer prior to completion.

Mr Ramsden concluded: “We see this as a great step forward. It means that if you are buying without a mortgage, you do not have to physically return the Transfer Deed to your solicitors. However, if you are buying with a mortgage, we will have to see if your lender will agree to the same method being used for their mortgage deed.”