Ireland – the status quo

Back in April of this year, I wrote about e-signatures in the context of Irish real estate transactions. The position in Ireland remains the same (for now) i.e. a contract for the sale of land can be concluded electronically but the deed of conveyance/ transfer must be signed in wet ink. Deeds of conveyance/ transfer, leases and other deeds which create interests in land are expressly excluded under section 10 of the E-Commerce Act from being executed electronically.

UK – big changes 

While Ireland has maintained the status quo, the situation has changed considerably in the UK. From 27 July 2020, the UK HM Land Registry has agreed to accept deeds for registration which have been signed electronically subject to a number of practical requirements: -

  1. All the parties to the deed agree to the use of electronic signatures and a relevant e-signature platform;
  2. All the parties have conveyancers (lawyer or other qualified person) acting for them (with some exceptions for deeds of discharge/ release, assents and powers of attorney);
  3. The conveyancer is responsible for setting up and controlling the signing process through the relevant e-signature platform with the following steps:-

Step 1: the conveyancer uploads the final agreed copy of the deed (including any plans) to the e-signature platform together with contact details in relation to the relevant parties and the witnesses.

Step 2: The e-signature platform emails the signatories to let them know the deed is ready to sign.

Step 3: To access the deed on the platform via the email they have received, the signatories are required to input a code sent to them by text message by the e-signature platform.

Step 4: The signatories enter the code and sign the deed in the physical presence of the witness, with the date and time being automatically recorded within the e-signature platform’s audit trail.

Step 5: The witness receives an email and inputs a code sent to them by text message by the e-signature platform, signs and adds their address in the space provided, with the date and time being automatically recorded again.

Step 6: Once the signing process has been concluded, the conveyancer controlling the signing process dates the deed within the e-signature platform with the date it took effect.

The deed is then ready to be lodged in the HM Land Registry for registration (either electronically or a copy can be printed and certified by the conveyancer).

A very simple and secure process which eliminates the need for printing, wet-ink signing (and sealing), wet-ink witnessing and posting of deeds between the relevant parties. It saves time and money and makes too much sense!

Recently, UK based solicitors The Partnership concluded a fully electronic conveyance which culminated in the first electronically signed deed in England and Wales. In an interview the firm’s managing partner, Peter Ambrose said that “…we have found [electronic signatures] revolutionary…in terms of speed and efficiency, especially for people living abroad who cannot get wet signatures to lawyers.” He also pointed out that e-signatures are inherently ‘green’ with little or no environmental impact when compared with their wet signature counterparts.

The hope now is that Ireland will follow suit. Legislative change and some careful planning are required but the appetite is there among legal professionals and clients alike – we need to move with the times! Along with other proptech leaders, such as and John Fahy at Transact.ie and Robert Hoban at Offr we are continuing to lobby the Law Society and other stakeholders in moving this agenda forward. Hopefully the recent progress by our neighbouring jurisdiction will inspire the Property Registration Authority to take this opportunity and bring conveyancing into the 21st century.

Leman Solicitors have extensive experience in conveyancing matters. For further information, please contact Karl O'Brien on +353 1 639 3000 or visit www.leman.ie.