Last week in his blog, John Abbott briefly talked through our new ‘Sign Your Mortgage Deed’ service which is coming to the market later in the year. It caused quite a lot of interest, so I want to provide some more detail.
The way the service works sounds quite simple. A conveyancer creates a digital version of a mortgage deed (the document that promises the repayment), the borrower signs the deed online, and the conveyancer makes the deed effective on completion of the transaction. In reality, there are complex layers of assurance and security that sit behind the service. For example, the point where the borrower uses the new digital service to ‘sign’ their deed.
To undertake this process in the most secure way possible, the borrower will first need to confirm their identity using GOV.UK Verify. To date, 1.9 million accounts have used GOV.UK Verify to perform over five million secure transactions. So we know our service will be fast and secure.
This important additional identity verification step doesn’t happen in the paper world.
Paper vs digital
Currently, when signing a paper deed, a borrower just needs to get their signature witnessed. I know from speaking with conveyancers that this doesn’t always go to plan.
The witness confirms the person borrowing the money signed the deed in their presence. However, it’s not unknown for a deed to be accidentally signed by a witness and not, as it should be, by the borrower.
The witnessing process might have served its purpose in a bygone era, but with the increase in property fraud, I’m firmly of the view that it makes much more sense to have some form of identity verification at the point of signature. GOV.UK Verify will do this for the Digital Mortgage service in the way that a witness can’t. In fact, in terms of fraud, there have been zero examples of fraud identified through the use of GOV.UK Verify to date.
GOV.UK Verify also provides us with secure deed matching, ensuring that the borrower is presented with the correct mortgage deed for their transaction. For this, we cross match the data that comes from GOV.UK Verify to other data that we hold as part of the transaction.
How it works for borrowers
We have tested our service with dozens of potential borrowers to ensure that it’s simple to use.
The borrower's access to the service always sits behind a secure Verify account, so they don’t need to create a separate account with HM Land Registry. And because Verify is used across government, they can also use the same details to access other government services safely, securely and entirely online.
I think the idea of using one government assured account to access multiple government services makes a lot more sense than needing a separate user login for each service.
Looking into the future
Conveyancers will still have a role to play in identity verification as they will continue to undertake the identity checks that they currently do as part of their due diligence. This will help to ensure the digital service remains as secure as it can be, giving assurance to lenders, conveyancers, and homeowners.
Digital Mortgage will be another step on HM Land Registry’s journey to become the world’s leading land registry for speed, simplicity and an open approach to data by helping to improve the end-to-end transaction times for residential remortgages.
The transition to digital is an opportunity to strengthen the integrity of the register. It allows us to make things easier while introducing new safeguards. We will regularly review how the service is working, from creating a deed up to the point of registration. This will help to give everyone involved the right level of confidence and make it simpler and faster for people to remortgage their homes.