Covid-19 – conveyancing and property transactions
How can coronavirus (covid-19) impact your conveyancing matter?
For many years conveyancing has been a traditionally paper based transaction. After finding your property, you meet with the real estate agent to sign the contract, each party signs the original contract and then you begin your conveyancing process. You fill out an application for finance, you engage your building and pest inspector. Transfer and mortgage documents are signed in person. On settlement day the representatives for all parties meet to handover transfer documents in exchange for cheques.
At Life Law Solutions our preferred approach for a number of years has been to complete conveyancing transactions through the electronic conveyancing platform PEXA (Property Exchange Australia). PEXA is Australia’s largest online property exchange network providing a platform for conveyancing lawyers, banks and other professionals to transact electronically. Documents are signed electronically. Money is debited from authorised accounts automatically. Transfers are lodged and registered with the Titles Office. The benefits to you in using this platform is that the process is streamlined, title to property transfers quickly and remaining funds from settlement are available shortly afterwards. There is no delay in Titles Office lodgements which can take a few weeks and no waiting for cheques to clear.
When you are signing a contract for the purchase or sale of property, make sure you do your homework and call your conveyancing solicitor to make sure they are PEXA certified. If the conveyancing solicitor acting for the other party is also registered then an electronic settlement can be arranged.
How are Queensland property and conveyancing transactions practically being impacted by Covid-19?
Lawyers in Queensland remain an essential service able to operate through this pandemic. This means that we can continue to assist you with your transaction and where required you can continue to meet with your lawyer as necessary.
There are certain in person requirements necessary for all conveyancing matters, regardless of whether you are using the PEXA system. The transfer of property is an area which can be subject to fraudulent transactions. This sometimes happens where a person pretends to be another person and signs documents transferring property out of their name. It is for this reason that in Queensland the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy (usually known as the Titles Office), the Department responsible for the transfer of land, has very strict requirements when signing and witnessing transfer documents.
When you sign a transfer document as part of your conveyancing process, there are strict obligations on the person who witnesses your transfer document to check that you are who you say you are. The witness must sight (and as your lawyer, we also keep copies) of your drivers licence and current passport. If you don’t have these documents there are a number of other combinations of documents which must be provided. Unfortunately, for a transfer or any other document that gets lodged with the Titles Office, it is no longer as simple as popping along to see your local Justice of the Peace.
From your point of view, whilst this process seems like a lot of additional steps, you would have peace of mind knowing that it is now much harder for fraudulent property transactions to take place, and that with each transaction a person is checking to make sure that the person who is signing the documents is authorised to do so.
Other documents which must continue to be signed in person are:
- your PEXA authorisation declaration. This form authorises your conveyancing lawyer to undertake the electronic conveyancing process on your behalf and must be signed in the presence of a qualified witness (Solicitor or Justice of the Peace). This can be arranged via a video conference in special circumstances.
- If you are purchasing a property as your home or first home – your transfer duty (previously stamp duty) declaration forms confirming how you are purchasing your property and allowing us to make an assessment of how much transfer duty you need to pay on your transaction.
Ordinarily, these in person appointment to verify identity and sign transfer documents are likely the only time where we will need to see you in person. When you attend at our office for these engagements we practice the required social distancing and ensure that our office is cleaned after each engagement. We also space out any appointments we have to limit contact with others.
For those transactions that are not completed on the PEXA platform, we can continue to progress the matter. Banks remain open for the time being so we are able to organise any required bank cheques for settlement. We will continue to follow the directives of the Prime Minister and Queensland Health in this regard.
Life Law Solutions is an experienced PEXA electronic conveyancing law firm. For enquiries about this service please contact us on 3343 9522 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our property team will be happy to assist you with your enquiries.