HM Land Registry joins call for digital identity checks

HM Land Registry chief says it is developing plans to encourage digital identity checking in conveyancing

Posted 19 November 2020 by

HM Land Registry has developed a draft set of requirements that are aimed at encouraging digital identity checks for the conveyancing market.

In a blog, Mike Harlow, general counsel, deputy chief executive and deputy chief land registrar, said a catalyst for the development of identity checking services would be an HM Land Registry standard. He said that “a published set of requirements will provide the clarity needed to the market and best steer the investment and development.”

Harlow said in collaboration with the Law Society, the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, there was potential for digital identity verification tools to provide “a more secure, efficient and convenient means of identifying the parties to a transaction, particularly during a pandemic.”

He noted that while techniques such as facial recognition against a passport are being used in several walks of life, they are not available to conveyancers yet.

“We want to do what we can to support the sector to see the development of easy-to-use, modestly-priced, remote and digitally secure options for conveyancers to use with their clients,” he said.

Harlow said the new standard would lay out a clearly defined category of digital identity checking means. However, he said it would be made clear that is not a compulsory standard, and other means of identifying parties to a transaction may still be used.

“Meeting the standard will be optional. Conveyancers will be able to continue using all existing methods that meet their duty to identify their clients. However, those who can demonstrate that they have met the new standard will be protected, as HM Land Registry would not seek recourse against a conveyancer in the event their client was not who they claimed to be. That’s a demonstration of our confidence in the additional security offered by these techniques,” he said.

He also said the work would be aligned with work DCMS is doing to implement an overarching framework for digital identity use across the economy.