Important changes to conveyancing law and practice have recently been introduced in Scotland. The Electronic Documents (Scotland) Regulations 2014 came in to force on 11 May 2014. These regulations were introduced under The Land Registration Etc. (Scotland) Act 2012 which comes fully into force on 8 December 2014. The regulations prescribe the requirements for electronic signatures that will allow documents covered by the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995, with the exception of Wills and other testamentary writings meantime, to be signed by applying a suitable electronic signature and thus be legally valid and self-proving. This means that contracts for the sale and purchase of land and property, including leases, can be completed electronically instead of in writing with a "wet" signature being applied.
This represents a major step towards conveyancing transactions being completed electronically without paper so long as the electronic signature used meets the prescribed requirements. The Law Society of Scotland is currently working on the introduction of an electronic practising certificate which will contain an electronic signature that will meet the requirements. It is anticipated that suitable electronic signature solutions will also be available commercially. For an example, see: www.yoosefultechnology.com
Yooseful Technology™ has developed software which can be utilised to enable agents and solicitors to collaborate, share property information and digitally sign and exchange property contracts. The first release of the software is already in use.
The 2012 Act will also further enable electronic registration of title in the registers under the management and control of the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. Additional regulations under the 2012 Act will follow once the Act is in full force and effect.
These are exciting times. Electronic signatures having full legal effect should stimulate the house buying/selling process and hopefully lead to efficiencies in cost and time which can be passed on to the consumer.