Back
Effective 1 June, we have a new address: 34 Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1QZ
Get in Touch Menu

An e-sign of the times?

24 February 2020

Times are changing but there’s still a place for pen and ink when it comes to legal property documents, explains paralegal Yasmin Lewis.

In the commercial property sector there is growing demand for transactions to be digitally signed, both for the convenience of the parties and to speed up the transaction. Nevertheless, it can be challenging to understand when e-signatures can and can’t be used. Property law is complex, containing many statutory requirements relating to documents.

An e-signature is defined as ‘data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign’. This definition can be satisfied in many ways, such as by typing a name into a contract, emailing a signed execution page or clicking an ‘I accept’ button. E-signatures have many different advantages; they are both time and cost efficient and they allow signatories to sign documents remotely without the need to involve postage or personal attendance at a solicitor’s office.

It is however important to note that in order to be legally effective, transfers of land, grants of easements and leases for a term in excess of three years are to be granted by deed. This means that they need to be signed as physical documents with a wet-ink signature. Short-term leases for less than 3 years can be signed electronically. However, where the tenant is granted rights (easements) to use common parts, such as corridors, reception areas or accessways, then in such cases the easements must be granted by deed and be noted at the Land Registry.

The Law Commission has stated that an e-signature is an acceptable way of executing a document if the intention is to authenticate the document and as long as any relevant formalities, such as a witness to the ‘signature’, are satisfied. Nonetheless, most documents in property transactions will require to be submitted to the Land Registry for registration or noting and unfortunately the Land Registry will not accept e-signatures. This is under review and the Land Registry has said that there may be a need to consider e-signatures in the future.

Accordingly, and in the light of the above, e-signatures are not currently considered good practice when executing property documents, and for the time being the requirement to execute such documents using a physical wet-ink signature will continue.

We're here to help

Yasmin provides practical legal support to our Chambers-rated commercial property team. She is currently studying for the LPC LLM at the University of West England.

Contact
Willans
Solicitors
About
Related services
Share this article
Resources to help

Related articles

The Charities Act 2022

Real estate

After key changes to the law were proposed in May 2021, the new act received Royal Assent on 24 February 2022, and was passed into law as the Charities Act…

Charlotte Brunsdon LLB, BA (Hons)
Associate, solicitor

Regulation changes to see rise in energy efficiency standards

Real estate

From 1 April 2023, the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations are set to become even stricter for commercial properties. The regulations were introduced in 2015 to target the least…

Charlotte Brunsdon LLB, BA (Hons)
Associate, solicitor

Webinar: Spring commercial property law update

Litigation & dispute resolution

In this Spring update our experienced partners in commercial property and property litigation will share insight on several topics. The first is a look at development land and will include…

Willans
Solicitors
Contact us