Practice guide 81: digital identity verification for conveyancing

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On 12 March 2021, Her Majesty’s Land Registry (HMLR) published its first digital identity standard, practice guide 81 (PG81). The standard is aimed at encouraging the use of digital identity to reduce the inconvenience and inconsistency of manually verifying a client’s identity during the homebuying process. 

Reducing the need for physical document checks performed by non-specialists can mitigate opportunities for fraud, increase convenience and lower costs for all parties involved in the home buying process.  

The standard follows the draft set of requirements, published in November 2020, which Yoti provided feedback on.


Practice guide 81: the fundamentals 

The standard provides guidance to conveyancers, such as solicitors, in the property selling process, who have a duty to carry out identity verification.  Although practice guide 81 is an optional standard, if a conveyancer can show that it has met the requirements, they will obtain Safe Harbour.  That means HM Land Registry will not seek legal action against conveyancers in the event that their client turns out to have committed identity fraud.


PG81 requirements

The standard is founded on the Government’s Good Practice Guide (GPG45) and has four steps:

  1. obtain evidence;
  2. check the evidence;
  3. match the evidence to the identity;
  4. obtain evidence to ensure the transferor, borrower or lessor is the same person or entity as the owner.


1. Obtain evidence

The types of evidence that are acceptable for the first step can all be verified as genuine using cryptography: biometric passports, some European identity cards and biometric residence permits.  


2. Check evidence

The conveyancer then has to use cryptography to check the authenticity of the evidence.  This can be performed using near-field communication (NFC) technology, which is built into a lot of modern mobile devices.


3. Match evidence to identity

Once the document has been verified as genuine and valid, the conveyancer must compare their client’s identity to the identity in the evidence.  HM Land Registry sets out a number of requirements for when matching a client to their evidence.  These include using advanced anti-spoofing tests, to check that the client isn’t trying to fool the digital identity system with a mask or using a bot.


4. Obtain evidence to ensure the transferor, borrower or lessor is the same person or entity as the owner

If the conveyancer represents transferor, borrower or lessor in the transaction, after the client has been matched to their evidence the conveyancer has to connect the client to the property.  This is done by collecting two documents from the client, which include utility bills, bank statements and council tax bills. These documents can be postal or online statements, as long as it is clear that the document has been received or downloaded by the individual and refers to the relevant property.


How Yoti can help with PG81 

For conveyancers, obtaining safe harbour by using robust digital identity checks is of course very important. With this new standard, HM Land Registry has shown that digital identity can, and should, be relied upon  for high-value transactions.  

Yoti provide identity verification solutions for conveyancers to meet their obligations under practice guide 81, as well as HM Land Registry-compliant e-signatures and e-witnessing for the execution of deeds, practice guide 8 (PG8).

As Mike Harlow, General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar  highlights,  “This new standard for digital biometric identity checking marks an exciting milestone towards a truly digital conveyancing process.”  

If  you’d like to hear more about how we can help you meet your obligations under this new standard, please get in touch.