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First electronically signed property registration

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In a historic development that could spell faster and more efficient conveyancing processes, a local deeds office has registered its first electronically signed property transfer.

The property of Zelda Lendon (68) was registered in the Bloemfontein deeds office in early July with the Power of Attorney to Transfer Property electronically signed by both the client and the conveyancer. The electronic signing was completed using one of the country’s leading digital signature platforms, Lexis Sign, which is underpinned by the Electronic Communications and Transactions (ECT) Act and also meets international standards for digital signatures.

Although the documents still had to be lodged manually, the process marked a giant leap forward in the Bloemfontein deeds office’s ongoing quest for innovation that improves deeds registration. With only nine deeds offices in the country, the global move towards digital signatures could help to overcome some of the efficiency, cost and logistics challenges experienced in the conveyancing field.

“This will hopefully evolve into a complete electronic property registration and mortgaging system in the near future,” said conveyancing attorney, Gerda Janse van Rensburg from Neumann van Rooyen Attorneys in Welkom. “It will drastically improve property registration turnaround times benefiting sellers, purchasers, estate agents and credit providers alike.”

Registration times remained the same as usual, however, the benefits of digital signing were in the processes prior to getting to the deeds office.

“The attorneys who acted as conveyancers in this matter are based in Welkom with registration happening in Bloemfontein,” the attorney said. “They are, therefore, reliant on lodging attorneys and couriers for their transactions. Using electronic documents improved the efficiency and turnaround of their tasks in the matter.”

The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act Chapter 3 part 1 gives legal recognition to electronic documents and recognises that electronic documents and signatures can serve as the electronic functional equivalent of their paper-based counterparts.

Although the ECT Act does not prescribe what type of technology must be used, examples of electronic signatures include: Your typed name at the end of your e-mail, signing with signature tablets used in banks and other retailers, and the so-called digital signature, among others.

The ECT Act also creates a special type of electronic signature, known as an “advanced electronic signature” (AES), which is a particularly reliable form of signature. Where a law (such as the Deeds Registries Act) requires a signature, only an AES will be valid. The use of an AES by the conveyancer is a legal requirement for the Power of Attorney to Transfer Property.

Ewald Scheepers, divisional executive for LexisNexis South Africa’s Business Software Solutions division, said digital signing of conveyancing documents could assist with the industry’s future adoption of an Electronic Deeds Registration System, or e-DRS. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is working towards establishing such a system.

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Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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