How Docusign supports Electronic Signature and Digital Signatures in Conveyancing

HM Land Registry has been exploring the possibilities and practicalities of using Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) as it believes that, in the longer-term, Qualified Electronic Signatures potentially provide a more secure and convenient option for conveyancing. In July 2020, HM Land Registry (HMLR) started accepting Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES), but Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES) are different to Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES) and do not require a witness as they have an embedded identity check within them.

In this article, we look at the two types of signatures and how Docusign can support them both. We also look at Qualified Electronic Signatures inside conveyancing law. The Law Society recently published an article on Hugh James which was the first conveyancer to complete conveyancing land registry using qualified electronic signatures and not a witness to complete the transaction with Docusign. 

Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES)

Witnessed Electronic Signatures (WES) are currently accepted by HM Land Registry. They replace wet-ink signatures and mirror the traditional process, requiring the physical presence and signature of a witness. 

There are several key requirements for WES with HMLR, including:

(1) a need for physical presence of the witness and 

(2) a One Time Password (OTP) access authentication for the signatory AND the witness.

Following the acceptance of WES in conveyancing, Docusign has been working closely with HM Land Registry and leading law firms in the UK in order to adapt our general eWitness capability and develop specific enhancements that align with the needs and requirements of conveyancers, including two-factor authentication for both the signer and the witness. 

eWitness is a feature of Docusign eSignature that has been enhanced to provide an even faster and easier experience for all parties when signing and witnessing deeds electronically while maintaining confidentiality. 

Docusign was recently named "Disruptive Technology of the Year" at this year’s Legal Week Innovation Awards for our work in enhancing our eWitness feature to align with the HM Land Registry requirements. Here’s how eWitness can work for HM Land Registry deed transactions. 

For more details on how eWitness can help you meet HM Land Registry requirements, watch the video below. It takes a look inside conveyancing land registry at Tally LLP and completing an HMLR Transfer of Registered Titles form with Docusign eWitness: 

Qualified Electronic Signatures (QES)

HM Land Registry have been exploring the possibilities and practicalities of QES as an alternative to WES for the digital future of conveyancing and residential conveyancing. 

Qualified Electronic Signatures are a type of digital signature that offers a heightened level of face-to-face identity verification when compared to standard electronic signatures. This verification removes the need for a witness. In February 2022, a group of experts chaired by a High Court judge and a law commissioner has concluded that Qualified Electronic Signatures is at least as secure as physically witnessed signatures. Hugh James took part in the pilot to complete the first properly deal with a Digital Qualified Electronic Signature for HM Land Registry. The introduction of QES has been called a “game changer” for land registry inside conveyancing. Discover more about HM Land Registry and QES

A digital signature is an electronic signature that uses a technology called a ‘digital certificate’ to authenticate the signer’s identity. Digital certificates indicate that signers have completed extra steps to confirm their identities. A signer’s digital certificate is used to create the signature and then attached to the signed document.

Digital certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities, also called Trust Service Providers. Once a Trust Service Provider issues a digital certificate, it can be stored on a smart card, USB drive, local computer, mobile phone, or in the cloud.

Qualified electronic signature (QES) includes a qualified digital certificate that indicates that identity verification has been completed face-to-face. The qualified certificates can only be issued by a Qualified Trust Service Provider (QTSP) authorised by regulatory bodies who assess the QTSP security standards.

Docusign is a QTSP in Europe on the EU Trust List, which means Docusign is authorised to issue Qualified signatures across the European Union, which are also accepted in the UK. 

Docusign offers multiple options for QES with face-to-face identity verification options. Docusign accepts all qualified certificates issued by TSPs on the EU Trust List that your signer already possesses. Alternatively, Docusign integrates with several qualified TSPs of choice.

In summary:

How are Docusign and conveyancing related?

Docusign provides solutions for signing and witnessing the signature of conveyancing documents using electronic signatures. It can also help those working in conveyancing and residential conveyancing to meet HM Land Registry requirements using digital signatures with Docusign eWitness and with Qualified Electronic Signatures. 

How can Docusign support on helping you meet HM Land Registry requirements?

HM Land Registry have accepted electronic signatures on deeds since 2020. Docusign can support meeting HMLR electronic signature requirements using Docusign eWitness or using Qualified Electronic Signatures. Here are the different types of electronic signature explained.

How can I get started with conveyancing with Docusign?

Docusign eSignature can be used to speed up conveyancing processes. If you wish to start using electronic signature for conveyancing contact sales and get a trial. You can also find out more about Docusign for Real Estate.

Next steps: 

Docusign is honoured to be in a position where we can support our customers with both Witnessed Electronic Signatures and Qualified Electronic Signatures. 

We are further energised by the opportunity to continue to collaborate with both the innovative leadership of the HM Land Registry and leading UK law firms in continuing to further improve the digital UK land registration experience. 

Stephanie Liais
Senior Product Marketing Manager