As of 18th January, when a party of two or more people are executing a deed, the same witness can be used to verify each individual signature but only if each of these signatures are independently attested.
Any deeds that have been or are to be completed post 18th January are to be correctly attested or the Land Registry will issue a requisition, this includes any deeds that are submitted with a single attestation that doesn’t clearly identify that it is for all of the signatures. Any deeds that were completed before this date won’t receive a requisition as even though the Land Registry advises that there haven’t been any changes in practice they are aware that it may appear this way.
Going forward, each signature will need to be separately attested unless it is absolutely clear that the witness has been present when the named signatories have signed the deeds, and this needs marking with express wording on the attestation.
Each individual must sign the document in order for the deed to be validly executed, with the marking of the document being classed as a person signing it (section 1(4) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989).
There is a space provided where the signature needs to be present on the document and the name of the signatory’s name should be mentioned within the words of execution, or, it should, at least, be made clear whose signature is on the document. This signature must be done in ink or another permanent method.
No facsimiles can be used to sign the document as each signature must be carried out manually. Sometimes, a signed facsimile may be accepted by the registrar through a discharge or release in form DS1 (Mortgage: Cancellation of entries for lenders) or form DS3 (Mortgage: Release of part of the land for lenders). In these cases, a release or discharge in one of these forms has to be “executed as a deed or authenticated in such other manner as the registrar may approve” (rule 114(3) of the Land Registration Rules 2003).
The Attestation by a Witness
As part of Section 1(3) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 each individual has to sign the deed “in the presence of a witness who attests the signature”. The Land Registry will make sure that the deed has been signed by the witness and that their signature states that they have witnessed the signing of each and every individual who has signed the deed. The name and address of said witness must also be clearly stated on the deed in case they need to be questioned further down the line about the execution of the deed.
Each signature will need to be separately attested unless it is absolutely clear that the witness has been present when the named signatories have signed the deeds, and this needs marking with express wording on the attestation.
Following Seal v Claridge 1881, any party to the deed cannot be a witness for any other party to the deed.
The civil partner, spouse or cohabitee of the signatory can act as a witness so long as they are not a party to the deed, however, it is recommended to avoid this. The Land Registry also advises that no-one under the age of 18 or of insufficient maturity should be relied upon to witness the deed signing. This is in case they are later needed to provide evidence about the execution of the deed and the circumstances under which it was carried out.
Delivery of the Deed
Each person who is executing the deed, or a person who is authorised on their behalf to deliver it (section 1(3)(b) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989) must acknowledge, by their conduct or words, that they understand that they are bound by the provisions of the deed. This is classed as the document being ‘delivered as a deed’.
Should there be a transaction which involves the creation or disposal of an interest in land and a conveyancer intends to deliver a document as a deed on behalf of their client, who is party to it, there is a decisive belief that it is in the purchasers favour that the conveyancer is approved to deliver it (section 1(5) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989).
The Land Registry will presume that each document is delivered as a deed unless there are any clear indications that say otherwise. For example, if there have been any modifications to the words of execution that stipulate the delivery has not taken place, or that a condition needs fulfilling before the delivery can take place, evidence will need to be provided to certify that delivery has taken place afterwards.
A particular attestation clause is not required by general law. So long as the clause clearly identifies that the signatures of all that are party to the deed have been made in the presence of witnesses and are intended to be by way of execution. The execution ‘as a deed’ of the document should be made clear by the wording and, if it isn’t clear anywhere else in the document, the words of execution should make this evident.
You can check your property details by ordering relevant Land Registry Documents here.