Associate, Frank Cunningham, talks us through the recent best practice guidelines for remote witnessing of documentation in respect of conveyancing matters
In the post-pandemic world into which we have emerged, business and law firms alike are continuing to rely on technical solutions to their client’s needs.
One trend which has only increased in popularity is the rise in remote online consultations between solicitor and client. Consultations such as these can be of huge benefit to a client as it allows for more flexible hours, meeting times, and ease of access to their solicitor between the ordinary hours of 9-5.
If online remote consultations are preferred over the course of a conveyancing transaction, then whether buying or selling a client may be sent certain documentation for signing and return to their solicitor. More often than not, such signatures are required to be witnessed.
The Law Society has recently released a note on best practices when it comes to remote witnessing of documentation in respect of conveyancing matters. It draws a clear distinction between the Contract for the Sale of a property, and Deeds such as Conveyances, Assignments, Transfers, and Charges/Mortgages.
Contracts for Sale
The Law Society confirms that, if the solicitor is not present for the execution of the Contract for Sale, it is sufficient that the client’s signature to be “acknowledged” to the solicitor, either in person or remotely, after the fact. The solicitor may then witness the signature. “Remote acknowledgment”, the law society continues “can be by phone, or over a virtual meeting such as Teams, FaceTime, Zoom…” or similar online platform.
Unlike Contracts for Sale, Deeds such as Conveyances, Assignments, Transfers, and Charges are governed by the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 (the “2009 Act”) and the Land Registry Rules. The 2009 Act requires that such Deeds be executed “in the presence of a witness”. The Law Society interprets this phrasing as meaning “physical presence of the witness signatory” and therefore such acknowledgment should not be affected remotely.
In all cases, the signature of a witness should accompany that witnesses name in clearly legible format (such as block capitals) together with that witnesses’ address or occupation.
If you have any questions in respect of the execution and witnessing of documents, or wish to consult with a solicitor on any other aspect of a property transaction, please do not hesitate to contact Frank Cunningham or anyone in the OSM Partners LLP Property Team on 01 691 5900.