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29 Apr 2021

Residential Property

HM Land Registry sets new standard for secure identity checks

Since the onset of the pandemic, homebuyers and conveyancers have relied on technology to avoid hitting a standstill in the housing market, with virtual tours and digital signatures ensuring that properties continued to exchange hands.

The latest change instigated by HM Land Registry sees the launch of the first Digital Identity Standard, offering buyers the opportunity to use their mobile phone to prove their identity when purchasing a property.

As this new standard enters circulation, Jamie Beese, a solicitor in our Residential Property team, examines how phones may be the future when it comes to buying or selling your home.

According to the Digital Identity Standard Practice Guide issued by HM Land Registry earlier this year, there is ‘widespread demand’ across the conveyancing market for ‘more resilient, straightforward and convenient’ identity verification solutions.[i]

The new standard seeks to add a level of flexibility to the conveyancing process, offering buyers of both residential and commercial properties the opportunity to confirm their identity using a smartphone, eliminating the need for parties to meet physically.

While the new standard is only optional, it offers a ‘Safe Harbour’ for conveyancers who meet the requirements.


How will this work in practise?

HM Land Registry have outlined a rigorous four-part system to ensure the necessary digital identity standard is achieved. We’ve included a brief overview of the checks that as conveyancers, we will need to perform, but the requirements can be found in full here.

  • Confirming Identity

Prospective buyers will need a passport, residence permit or an identity card from the UK or an EU country that contains biometric information. A smartphone can then be used to extract encrypted information held within the chips of these documents.

  • Evidence Checking

An identity check provider must verify that the documents and cryptographic security features are genuine, ensuring that the digital signature is correct and the signing keys have not been revoked.

  • Photographic Checks

This stage can be completed by using a ‘liveness check’. Photographs or videos of the person performing generic tasks can be used to ensure that the person presenting the information is real.

  • Connecting the buyer to the property.

This involves obtaining two other evidence types that prove name and address, such as utility bills, bank statements, a driving licence or credit card.

If at any time prior to the completion of the transaction, there is reasonable doubt about the checks that have been conducted or there are grounds to believe that the parties represented may not be genuine, then further enquiries or evidence must be sought to ensure the standard is met.


Will the new system prove popular?

With lockdown restrictions continuing to ease, many of us are back to work on a full-time basis and our evenings and weekends are quickly filling up once again. The opportunity to complete identity checks online and outside of traditional working hours will likely prove popular for those who juggle a busy diary.

Using smartphones to extract encrypted information will also provide an additional layer of security and reassurance for homebuyers, who are often required to share personal details via phone or email.

While there is still quite a way to go until technology offers us a seamless buying or selling process, the Digital Identity Standard is a notable milestone. Here at Harding Evans, we already enjoy many benefits of utilising a digital toolkit, including Lexis Nexis mobile ID checks and our award-winning app.


Your Lawyers For Life

If you are looking to buy or sell your property, make sure to get in touch with one of the friendly, experienced Residential Property team members at Harding Evans. You can contact us here.


[i] HM Land Registry, Practice guide 81: encouraging the use of digital technology in identity verification, 12 March 2021



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