Is Your Law Firm Ready for the e-Conveyancing Reforms?

All states and territories, with the exception of the ACT, have passed the Electronic Conveyancing (Adoption of National Law) Act 2013 (ECNL), paving the way for a purpose-built platform which enables practitioners to undertake conveyances online via the Property Exchange Australia Ltd (PEXA).

With property transfer moving into the digital age, Susan Duffy, author of e-Conveyancing Simplified, provides the following tips to ensure that your firm is prepared for the conveyancing reforms, while also reaping the benefits of the e-revolution.

Properly identify the verification of identity standards

The conveyancing reforms require firms to be familiar with the Model Participation Rules (MPR) along with the standards for certification and Verification of Identity (VoI), which can be found in Schedule 8 of the MPR. Although the sheer amount of rules may appear to be daunting for some practitioners, Ms Duffy notes that the standards aren’t particularly hard to follow, but law firms must follow the steps outlined under the MPR.

VoI requires that every party involved in a conveyancing transaction must have their identity verified. Schedule 8 of the MPR outlines the reasonable steps that subscribers must take to verify the identity of Signers, clients, mortgagees, mortgagors, and agents. Subscribers must ensure that they meet the minimum VoI document and face-to-face in-person interview requirements.

Ensure that your firm is able to meet the technological requirements

Revolutions generally require that participants are ready for the upcoming change, and the e-Conveyancing revolution is no exception. For firms wishing to utilise PEXA, they must ensure that their browsers are current, and that the minimum systems requirements are met.

When the subscription requirements have been met PEXA will provide a Gatekeeper certificate that allows subscribers to undertake e-Conveyancing transactions in the PEXA workspace.
Beyond the systems and software requirements, Ms Duffy advises that law firms have record keeping systems can facilitate record retention and retrieval electronically for years to come.

Privacy and security is key

Perhaps the most important thing for firms to be aware of in relation to the conveyancing reforms according to Ms Duffy is security of private keys. Subscribers must protect passwords and not share the passwords with any other party with particular attention paid to the attribution rule found in the Electronic Conveyancing National Law (ECNL).

Ms Duffy emphasises the need for firms to have stringent password protection practices to protect their practice from falling foul of fraudulent activities.

Participation may save your firm time and money

In a legal business environment which is increasingly emphasising savings in costs and time, PEXA may be an attractive for those firms wishing to participate with e-conveyancing. Some of the benefits that Ms Duffy identifies include:

  • Automation of processes such as pre-population of data on the Land Registry, electronic lodgement and settlement for conveyancing transactions.
  • Less time spent on document preparation for practitioners.
  • Settlement without requiring attendance.

As Ms Duffy points out, “simple things can be done quickly” for practitioners who choose to engage with the reforms.

Five tips for practitioners who want to join the e-Conveyancing revolution

  1. Be familiar with the Australian Registrars National Electronic Conveyancing Council (ARNECC) Model Participation Rules (MPR) in order to conduct e-Conveyancing transactions.
  2. Follow the procedure and retain the Verification of Identity (VOI) evidence consistent with the VOI standard in order to obtain the benefit of the “safe harbour” provisions.
  3. Upgrade your computer and software systems to the latest versions to ensure your firm will meet the system requirements in order to conduct e-Conveyancing transactions.
  4. Ensure your firm has strong security systems in place in order to protect private keys.
  5. Be fully informed with the attribution rule found in the Electronic Conveyancing (Adoption of National Law) Act 2013 (ECNL), s 12.

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