Home Resource Hub DigitalMove is an inevitable part of the home moving process

DigitalMove is an inevitable part of the home-moving process

Steve Goodall, CEO of ULS Technology Plc discusses rewiring the home moving process

DigitalMove is an important step in re-wiring the conveyancing process for home buyers and sellers but its worth understanding why mobile tools like ours are part of a broader movement of change in the home buying and selling transaction.

There are several challenges facing the industry in terms of automating home buying and selling – not least the sheer number of moving parts and parties in the process. Some parts of contract law require the physical conveyance of ownership of property from one party to another in writing that is witnessed and signed by all parties in person. House purchase is one.

Towards the end of last year, the Land Registry, following a year of consultation with the industry on how technology could and should be used, realised that customers are being asked to sign multiple forms in front of a witness, to prove their identity repeatedly, and by different authorities. All of which slows the process down. The good news is that they and the Law Commission are now working to develop a way to change this.

Over the next 12 months, the Land Registry has committed to explore both blockchain and distributed ledgers – secure, online databases allowing everyone involved in a transaction to clearly see and track the status of the sale. These two technologies have the potential to open up property transactions and allow those involved to stay up to date and those who need to act to be sent notifications with sufficient guidance. The Land Registry is also looking at how smart contracts, which automatically complete once everyone involved has filled out their section, and advancing digital signature technology can be used to improve things. This could be a game changer for the other half of the equation – speeding the process up considerably.

The other piece of work ongoing on this topic follows last year’s consultation by the Law Commission, which aimed to address legal uncertainty surrounding the electronic execution of documents. This has provided some much-needed recognition of the challenge presented by the practicalities of selling land.  European law and UK courts both recognise electronic signatures as valid and as already mentioned, the Land Registry is already moving towards smart contracts, however UK statute law – the Electronic Communications Act 2000 – doesn’t officially allow digital signatures. This needs to change to reflect how technology has moved on.

In many ways the technical challenges of delivering progress in the shape of DigitalMove are relatively straight-forward compared to digitising some of the more arcane process of English Law but the fact that both are now happening means the entire process will be more secure and smoother for everyone. It has been a long time coming, but it looks like finally, we may be on the cusp of meaningful change.

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