Biometric remote property sales process considered by Land Registry

HM Land Registry is proposing the use of cryptography and biometrics, combined with electronic identity credentials, to enable digital identity checks as part of a remote sales property process.

The Government department said that ‘digital identity checks will help to prevent property fraud and confirm applicant identities while adhering to social distancing rules.’

The proposal has been welcomed by the Law Society, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEx), which have been working with the conveyancing industry to explore options for facilitating property transactions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The system HM Land Registry is recommending is a typical ID document check and ‘selfie’ video for facial biometric matching using a smartphone. The process is widely used by UK immigration systems, and according to 79 percent of people registering for the Home Office’s EU settlement scheme, the technology is ‘easy’ or ‘fairly’ easy to use.

In a blog posted by HM Land Registry on, Mike Harlow, General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar at the Land Registry said:

“The prevention of property fraud obviously relies on the accurate verification of the parties to the transaction. Even in the best of circumstances, conveyancers checking the identity of their clients personally can be inconvenient to both.

“The current processes in conveyancing do not feel very 21st century and they have proved difficult to maintain in the current crisis.”

HM Land Registry, with the backing of the Law Society, CLC and CILEx, said that ‘it believes that cryptographic and biometric checking of identity, using microchip-enabled passports or identity cards, might present a new, robust and convenient answer to the need to maintain social distancing while verifying an applicant’s identity.’

According to HM Land Registry, the coronavirus crisis has highlighted the immediate need for a remote, easy-to-use, moderately priced and digitally secure solution for conveyancers to verify the identity of property buyers and sellers.

The Government department announced that it will be hosting a virtual event to explore how HM Land Registry can assist identity solution providers to develop an accessible service for conveyancers and is encouraging people to register for the webinar.

Guidance issued for the legal sector by the Legal Sector Affinity Sector recently, stated: “As an alternative to face-to face documentary verification, legal practices and practitioners may adopt or further utilise electronic means of ID&V [identity and verification] where appropriate to the risks present in the client/transaction.”

HM Land Registry’s blog claims that there are nearly 4,000 active conveyancing businesses in the UK. The Government department wrote: “They are looking to providers to give them the safe and secure solution they can rely on to deliver great customer service at a distance.”

Using cryptography, combined with biometric identity technology, represents a potentially simple solution, according to HM Land Registry.

In its blog, the Government department said: “When using these technologies the user places their smartphone next to their passport. The app then analyses the information from the passport chip to cryptographically check the validity of the passport.

“The user then records a video, which is then compared with the passport photo on the chip to achieve facial recognition. This can be done using a smartphone (Android and iPhones included), wherever they are, and the results are near immediate.”



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  1. drasperger

    Why not just ask a phone…..? Mine seems to know who I am?

  2. ComplianceGuy

    There are countless providers already offering this, including the company that provides border control with their passport scanning machines.

    Land Registry is actually just agreeing with what is already in law! 5MLD explicitly approves (and even encourages) the use of electronic verification of identifies.

  3. itsgreatupnorth

    sounds a bit old hat to me, we’ve been doing electronic ID checks for over three years. On EVERY client, to inc passport and or driver’s licence certification as advised by HMRC in their most recent directive. If an agency is not doing it this way already they are laying themselves open to heavy fines.


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