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Moving House with Online Technology

By: Liz Lennox - Updated: 13 Mar 2016 | comments*Discuss
Conveyancing Power Of Attorney Exchange

You may, or may not, have heard about a new revolution in conveyancing. It is called E-conveyancing and is intended to bring the whole process of moving house into the technological age. I think the idea of it is fantastic, after all getting the Land Registry and conveyancers into the 21st Century has to be a good thing!

Unfortunately one of the features that will underpin this is that all legal documents will be held in a central location and will be signed digitally.

What is a Digital Signature?

Basically it is a computer file held with a document; the file contains evidence that the document was signed by the person that was supposed to sign it – i.e. the property owner, and that the document has not been altered since that happened.

All sounds pretty good so far, right? A digital, unassailable signature and a central location for documents has to improve the efficiency of the whole system.

So, What is the Problem?

Quite simply, and this is no reflection on the general public, but the average housebuyer is not that well versed in technology so it is unlikely that they will be able to even create the signature in the first place. The solution? Well the Land Registry think-tank decided that conveyancers can sign on behalf of their client.

What this means for you is that you authorise the conveyancer to sign on your behalf for one of the most important transactions of your life. Now; there may be occasions when you give a conveyancer a power of attorney to sign for you under the current system, but that is usually only in emergency circumstances and the authority is limited and usually only valid for a certain period of time.

Essentially, the effect can be summarised thus;

  • The signature on the documents (that would be the conveyancer’s) is never erased. Even if the firm doesn’t exist anymore, the signature is still there for any ex-employee with a valid password to access.
  • The conveyancer stops being an independent advisor and becomes a major party to your transaction; they are involved in the biggest thing in your life in a huge way.

Luckily the majority of conveyancers are honest, upstanding individuals and I believe the powers that be are working on these particularly thorny issues.

The knock-on effect for you, beside the chance of increased risk for fraud, is that the conveyancer is also taking a huge risk – their potential claims for negligence sky-rocket and that will be passed on to you, in the fees.

On the Plus Side…

  • The Land Registry are developing a ‘chain matrix’ making every single transaction, and its current progress, available to view online. This will make it possible for everyone to know exactly what is going on at any time.
  • It will mean that exchange of contracts and completition can take place simultaneously. The system will include links to the banking system – it could all be done ‘at the click of a button’.

A Final Word…

There is a lot of controversy over the supposed imminent introduction of this system. The level of security required will need to rival the banking system, and we all know how many people are victims of financial fraud.

Personally I believe that the idea of e-conveyancing is sound but at the time of writing I am not sure that a totally infallible, fraud-proof system is possible. Just my opinion.

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I bought my present house in 1987 as a DIY conveyance. That was just before registration became compulsory in this county, and it is still unregistered. Now, at 85, I have applied for registration (again a DIY application), encouraged by the fact that the Internet has made the job easier. Reading between the lines of the letter in which the Land Registry acknowledges my application, it seems that I can expect to wait quite some time for action (which I suppose is partly because solicitors are continually joining the queue ahead of me). Despite that, in acting for myself I have the advantage that I don't have to worry about how well a solicitor is handling the job, and whether the deeds are being kept safely. When my ex-wife sold her house many years ago, the solicitor actually lost the deeds (never found). Now I hope to have the registration done before I die, thus avoiding extra work for my executors, who would presumably have to make a fresh application.
skinflint - 13-Mar-16 @ 10:56 PM
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