SPECIAL FEATURE: HM Land Registry Digital ID Standard: What conveyancers need to know – Thirdfort

Olly Thornton-Berry of Thirdfort has written a special article covering the topic of HM Land Registry Digital ID Standard: What conveyancers need to know.

SPECIAL FEATURE: HM Land Registry Digital ID Standard: What Conveyancers need to Know - Thirdfort

Olly Thornton-Berry, co-founder and MD of Thirdfort

On 12th March 2021, after hosting an online event with Thirdfort, HM Land Registry released their Standards for Digital ID Verification. In a bid to encourage uptake of technology in the sector, HM Land Registry set out clear guidelines for technology providers that, when reached, guaranteed the conveyancers using them ‘safe harbour’ from recourse in the event of identity fraud.

The Digital ID Standard is an important and timely development and, ultimately, good news for conveyancing. HM Land Registry carries enormous influence and this step will help give clarity to law firms, whilst helping to drive the industry towards a clear framework for using Digital ID. In this article, we round up exactly why and how conveyancers should look into meeting the Digital ID Standard, and which processes are next for digitisation by HM Land Registry.

The benefits

Digital ID obviously comes with a number of benefits outside of the standards, namely remoteness, improved level of assurance (as opposed to human verification) and efficiency.

In terms of the Digital ID Standard, there’s one important benefit: where firms have carried out ID verification that met the Digital ID Standard, HM Land Registry would not seek recourse if fraud occurred. By ‘recourse’, the HM Land Registry is referring to circumstances where they have given effect to a fraudulent transaction on the register.

This triggers their Statutory Indemnity Entitlement, which means that under the state guarantee of title HM Land Registry provides, HM Land Registry would then compensate for any losses sustained by any losing parties as a result of the registration of this transaction. HM Land Registry then has the right to recoup this compensation if necessary. By proving that the Digital ID Standard has been met in a transaction, however, firms have the assurance that this recourse won’t occur. This has been referred to as ‘safe harbour’.

It’s worth noting that, in addition to fraud prevention and protection from falling foul of regulators, there are clear benefits to consumers by accelerating the digitisation of the conveyancing process. Currently, manual onboarding processes can take up to two weeks.

This is contributing to the ever-lengthening property buying and selling process, which now sits at 22 weeks. With digital identity checks taking a matter of minutes, admin time at the start of the transaction can be cut significantly, allowing the legal work to start sooner. Particularly pertinent in the current climate, digital identity checks can be carried out from anywhere. This is useful for those clients living abroad, or as the pandemic continues, during any periods of lockdown and for vulnerable clients who continue to shield.

Do ID suppliers meet the guidance?

Namely, the guidance has four key requirements: obtain evidence from the client, check that this evidence is genuine, make sure the evidence matches the client and obtain evidence to ensure the transferor, borrower or lessor is the same person as the owner.

These guidelines are broken down in full detail here.

To be considered as satisfying the Standard, the best providers will need to utilise a range of different technologies including biometric facial recognition, Near Field Communication (NFC), liveness checking and for certain types of property transaction, the ability to collect evidence of proof of address.

The Safe Harbour threshold has been set very high which presents challenges for e-IDV providers to ensure their product is built to reach these requirements. For example, the NFC technology will require providers to have a native app, as opposed to an online portal, and this technology only works with biometric chip-enabled identity documents, primarily passports.

This means both providers and law firms must be considerate of those clients who may not possess such a document and provide alternative ways for them to verify their identity safely and compliantly.

Thirdfort were in close conversation with HM Land Registry from before the release of the drafted Standard. As a result, Thirdfort Standard, our new ID check that meets the requirements outlined in HM Land Registry’s Standard, is now available.

You can read more about how Thirdfort meets the Standard here.

A forward look

In our webinar back in March, HM Land Registry revealed that they were working on a New Practice for the use of Electronic Signatures, as well as working on Qualified e-Signatures. They are collaborating with other Government bodies on themes like digital deeds and how this could transform conveyancing, while also looking at Digital Registration Service and Business Gateway, HM Land Registry’s Digital API service.

Thirdfort Standard is secure, efficient and compliant with HM Land Registry’s Digital ID Standard. For more information, visit Thirdfort’s website or get in touch at contact@thirdfort.com.


Olly Thornton-Berry is the MD and co-founder of Thirdfort. Previously, he worked in software investment before setting up Thirdfort after a friend was defrauded out of £25k on a house purchase. Fraud is a social blight and Olly, along with long-time friend Jack Bidgood, founded Thirdfort to help fight it. Thirdfort dramatically reduces risk for lawyers during client interactions and makes life much easier for people going through Big Life Moments. Thirdfort combines tech, design and data smarts to create an awesome app with serious security. Olly believes good people should be free to do good business, and this ethos filters into Thirdfort’s objective: massively improving the legal process and setting a new standard in legal security.


Kindly shared by Thirdfort

Main photo courtesy of Pixabay