HM Land Registry (HMLR) has taken a temporary step towards accepting electronic signatures on deeds, and relaxed some identity verification rules, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

The aim is to:

HMLR has said the changes are temporary and will be regularly reviewed. 

For full details of the changes, see HMLR’s new Practice Guide 67A.

Mercury signing approach

From 4 May 2020, HMLR will accept deeds signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’. This involves capturing a signature page with a scanner or camera and emailing the image to the conveyancer. Signatures must still be signed in pen and witnessed in person.

Read our practice note on virtual signings to find out how ‘Mercury’ style signings work.

HMLR has updated Practice guide 8: execution of deeds with further information.

Evidence of identity

Due to current public health guidelines, members of the public cannot visit HMLR to have their identity checked.

While it’s still possible to have identity verified by a solicitor, barrister or notary, HMLR has made temporary changes to:

  • enable people to confirm their identity, and
  • protect against registered title fraud.

From 4 May 2020, HMLR will:

  • not reject an application where evidence of identity is missing
  • accept forms ID1 or ID2 that are up to six months old
  • allow a limited number of non-conveyancer professionals to verify identity (see below).

Authorised professionals will be able to verify identity by a video call, for example by Skype, FaceTime or a similar product.

Three new identity forms are being introduced (the only new form that affects conveyancers is the new form ID5).

HMLR is also making changes to Practice Guide 67 to reflect some of the changes; you should read this guide in conjunction with the new Practice Guide 67A.

Non conveyancers who can verify identity

The list is restricted to:

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

However, if verification is not carried out by a conveyancer, various conditions must be met.