The rules for Land Registry execution of deeds during the Coronavirus pandemic have temporarily been amended.
Execution of Deeds for Registration purposes at HM Land Registry – Practice Guide 8
In response to the current climate HMLR have made a temporary change to Practice guide 8 and the execution of deeds for registration purposes.
The Law Commission report published in September 2019, endorsed an approach put forward by the Law Society in a practice note “Execution of documents by virtual means”. The Law Society had advocated this approach as a “prudent” one to be taken in the execution of deeds (whether by an individual or on behalf of a company) where the parties were not all present on completion of a transaction. The approach was set out in the practice note and referred to by the Law Society, and subsequently by the Law Commission, as “option 1”.
Mercury signing is the form settled on as a response to comments in the case of R (Mercury Tax Group Ltd) v HMRC  EWHC 2721 when it was commented “that the language necessarily involves that the signature and attestation must form part of the same physical document” being signed. This is why the form of signature used in option 1 is often referred to as a “Mercury PDF” signature.
HM Land Registry have announced that they will, until further notice, accept for the purposes of registration a transfer and certain other deeds signed in accordance with option 1, adopting the ‘Mercury signing approach’.
Documents that can be signed using the mercury approach
The approach can now be used for the following documents:
- A deed that effects one of the dispositions referred to in section 27(2) and (3) of the Land Registration Act 2002;
- A discharge or release in form DS1 or DS3;
- Equivalent deeds in respect of unregistered land; and
- A power of attorney other than a lasting power of attorney.
In all cases, the parties to the deed (or assent) must be represented by a conveyancer. All conveyancers involved will need to agree to option 1 being used before the matter proceeds. Once agreement is reached the document can be executed following the steps below:
- Final agreed copies of the transfer are emailed to each party by their conveyancer;
- Each party prints the execution page only;
- Each party signs the execution page in the physical presence of a witness (not by video call);
- Witness signs the execution page;
- Each party to send a single email attaching the execution page to their conveyancer where it will be attached to the physical copy of the document;
- conveyancing transaction is completed;
- conveyancer applies to register the disposition 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;
- the application is processed by HM Land Registry following standard operating procedure.
Further guidance is given with respect to 7 above and the combining of the deed, which can be either:
- electronically combined or
- printed out and then physically combined.
In either event the conveyancer must certify that it is a true copy of the original in the usual way. For the purposes of the certificate, the single document produced by the conveyancer is to be treated as the original document.
Application for registration can be made either electronically or by post in paper form.
If you would like any further guidance on the execution of deeds please email me.
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