First digital signature for deeds in Bloemfontein

In a historic development that could spell faster and more efficient conveyancing processes, the South African Deeds Office has registered its first electronically signed property transfer.

The property of Zelda Lendon (68) was registered in the Bloemfontein Deeds Office 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.

Conveyancing attorney, Gerda Janse van Rensburg, from innovative firm, Neumann van Rooyen Attorneys in Welkom, took this ground-breaking step to use electronic signatures on documents registered in the highly regulated Deeds Office.

She said: “This will hopefully evolve into a complete electronic property registration and mortgaging system in the near future. It will drastically improve property registration turnaround times benefitting Sellers, Purchasers, Estate Agents and credit providers alike.”

Property owner Lendon agreed that the process was fast and hassle free, saying: “What a painless, efficient and fast process.  It made my transaction so much smoother and I am excited to be a part of this initiative.”

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 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, which provides the Lexis Sign platform, said: “This technological advancement can fundamentally change the conveyancing industry in South Africa, setting the precedent that electronic documents can be used throughout the conveyancing process with only submission into the deeds office requiring printing.”

 

First Bloemfontein electronic signature for deeds
Left to right: George Tsikos (LexisNexis), Petro van Dyk (Neumann van Rooyen Attorneys), André Styger (Neumann van Rooyen Attorneys), Rachelle Blignaut (LexisNexis), Gerda Janse van Renbsurg (Neumann van Rooyen Attorneys) and Pieter Coetzee (LexisNexis) attended the historic unveiling of the new electronic title deed at an event in Welkom. 

He added: “LexisNexis has already enabled thousands of documents and contracts worth more than R30bn to be signed electronically. The Lexis Sign platform allows users to upload any PDF document to be signed and eliminates the need to print, sign, scan and email through a simple, secure entirely web-based platform that does not require additional hardware or devices. It is mobile and speedy, enabling documents to be signed anywhere, any time and on any device.”

Lexis Sign is one of a slew of innovative solutions from LexisNexis that have transformed the conveyancing profession over the past 40 years. LexisNexis has entrenched itself as a leader in the conveyancing sector, with pioneering solutions for all players in the property industry, including Lexis WinDeed, Lexis Agent IQ, Lexis Prop IQ, Lexis Connect, Lexis DocAssembly and Lexis Convey. 

Scheepers 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 the establishment of such a system.

For further information on Lexis Sign, visit www.lexisnexis.co.za/lexissign 

 

Comments   

0 #12 Pieter Coetzee 2018-08-14 14:04
Hello Allen

Thank you for your comment.

Mark Heyink has written an article that speaks to this resolution.

The article can be found at: https://www.tech4law.co.za/news-in-brief/54-local/2857-a-small-step-in-electronic-signature-a-giant-leap-for-electronic-deeds-registration

Quoting ALLEN WEST:
The electronic signing of any document for deeds registration purposes is not permitted.

I quote:

50/2006 Section 12 of Electronic Communication and Transaction Act No. 25 of 2002
May electronically generated signatures be accepted for any act of registration to be registered in a deeds registry? The Act specifically excludes an agreement for the alienation of land and long term lease agreements, but does not refer to powers of attorney’s consents, antenuptial contracts, etc.

Resolution:
Only originally signed documentation is permissible.
All Registrars are bound to this ruling
Quote
0 #11 Pieter Coetzee 2018-08-02 06:40
Thank you for describing the signatories and their roles so succinctly.

The signatories signed electronically. As the article points out, the documents were lodged in paper form.

Quoting ALLEN WEST:
Perhaps it is necessary to put the whole scenario into perspective. The deeds were not electronically lodged or registered. The preparing conveyance merely signed the prep clause on the PA and the seller authorizing the Conveyancer to appear before the Registrar of Deeds signed the power of attorney electronically before two witnesses who also effected their signatures electronically.

Having said all that -- this is contrary to the Directive issued and totally premature
Quote
0 #10 Pieter Coetzee 2018-08-01 22:13
The Lexis Sign platform aims to support the entire interaction at the point of signature.

Through our partner, LawTrust, we are able issue Advanced Electronic Signature certificates to attorneys as well as clients.

Quoting Andrew Marshall:
The conveyancer no doubt would have a key-pair already assigned to him/her, but how would the seller have a key-pair allocated?

Assuming that the seller did not have a pre-existing key-pair, who would issue the key-pair and how would authentication of the seller's identity be done without causing delay to the conveyancing process?
Quote
0 #9 ALLEN WEST 2018-08-01 11:45
Perhaps it is necessary to put the whole scenario into perspective. The deeds were not electronically lodged or registered. The preparing conveyance merely signed the prep clause on the PA and the seller authorizing the Conveyancer to appear before the Registrar of Deeds signed the power of attorney electronically before two witnesses who also effected their signatures electronically.

Having said all that -- this is contrary to the Directive issued and totally premature
Quote
0 #8 Andrew Marshall 2018-08-01 11:12
The conveyancer no doubt would have a key-pair already assigned to him/her, but how would the seller have a key-pair allocated?

Assuming that the seller did not have a pre-existing key-pair, who would issue the key-pair and how would authentication of the seller's identity be done without causing delay to the conveyancing process?
Quote
0 #7 ALLEN WEST 2018-08-01 09:03
The electronic signing of any document for deeds registration purposes is not permitted.

I quote:

50/2006 Section 12 of Electronic Communication and Transaction Act No. 25 of 2002
May electronically generated signatures be accepted for any act of registration to be registered in a deeds registry? The Act specifically excludes an agreement for the alienation of land and long term lease agreements, but does not refer to powers of attorney’s consents, antenuptial contracts, etc.

Resolution:
Only originally signed documentation is permissible.
All Registrars are bound to this ruling
Quote
+1 #6 Pieter Coetzee 2018-07-31 13:46
Lexis Sign was developed with the South African legislation in mind.

The platform allows for the witnesses to be present and to digitally sign as witnesses.

Quoting Butch:
exactly how would the witnesses sign ?
Quote
+1 #5 Malcolm Pearson 2018-07-31 13:43
Thanks for the extra comment Butch and Ewald for responding to the question by John.

I imagine, and Ewald must confirm, the witnesses would also sign digitally.
Quote
+1 #4 Ewald Scheepers 2018-07-31 13:37
Thank you for your comment.

The quote you refer to was an actual quote received from Miss Lendon. We believe that it proves that the Lexis Sign platform the attorneys chose for this transaction is very user friendly and efficient.

The attorneys who acted as conveyancer in this matter are based in Welkom with registration happening in Bloemfontein. They are therefore reliant on lodging attorneys and couriers for their transactions. They are confident that they receive great efficiencies from using electronic documents.


Quoting John Christie:
I would be interested to know just how the signing of a power of attorney electronically has ''enhanced'' the registration procedures and how it was that this became a ''painless, fast and efficient'' process?
The manual signing of a power of attorney for a property transaction is not an issue that has caused a single days' delay in my entire conveyancing career. Given that the rest of the transaction proceeded in the normal way, this report seems to be really misleading. Just how did this make the transaction ''smoother''?Moreover contracts for the sale of land are excluded from ECTA, so agreements of sale or other contracts involving the alienation of land must still be signed manually. The real reason for the delay in conveyancing transactions these days is the delay on the part of the municipalities in providing rates clearances certificates. I cannot, by any stretch of imagine understand how the mere signing of a PoA to transfer electronically enhanced the conveyancing procedure in any way.
Quote
+1 #3 Butch 2018-07-31 12:25
exactly how would the witnesses sign ?
Quote
+1 #2 Malcolm Pearson 2018-07-31 09:25
Hello John

A good comment and factual as always. Let me get Ewald to give his input.

Quoting John Christie:
I would be interested to know just how the signing of a power of attorney electronically has ''enhanced'' the registration procedures and how it was that this became a ''painless, fast and efficient'' process?
The manual signing of a power of attorney for a property transaction is not an issue that has caused a single days' delay in my entire conveyancing career. Given that the rest of the transaction proceeded in the normal way, this report seems to be really misleading. Just how did this make the transaction ''smoother''?Moreover contracts for the sale of land are excluded from ECTA, so agreements of sale or other contracts involving the alienation of land must still be signed manually. The real reason for the delay in conveyancing transactions these days is the delay on the part of the municipalities in providing rates clearances certificates. I cannot, by any stretch of imagine understand how the mere signing of a PoA to transfer electronically enhanced the conveyancing procedure in any way.
Quote
+2 #1 John Christie 2018-07-31 09:18
I would be interested to know just how the signing of a power of attorney electronically has ''enhanced'' the registration procedures and how it was that this became a ''painless, fast and efficient'' process?
The manual signing of a power of attorney for a property transaction is not an issue that has caused a single days' delay in my entire conveyancing career. Given that the rest of the transaction proceeded in the normal way, this report seems to be really misleading. Just how did this make the transaction ''smoother''?Moreover contracts for the sale of land are excluded from ECTA, so agreements of sale or other contracts involving the alienation of land must still be signed manually. The real reason for the delay in conveyancing transactions these days is the delay on the part of the municipalities in providing rates clearances certificates. I cannot, by any stretch of imagine understand how the mere signing of a PoA to transfer electronically enhanced the conveyancing procedure in any way.
Quote
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