The Law Society has backed proposals to simplify the legal basis of electronic conveyancing in its reply to proposals for reform of the Land Registration Act 2002. 

Responding to a Law Commission consultation on updating the act, the Society agrees with the commission that electronic conveyancing systems should not require simultaneous completion and registration as envisaged under the 2002 act.

While agreeing that simultaneous completion and registration should remain a long term goal, the Society says that 'it is preferable to remove this requirement from the legislation at this stage. There is no current prospect of "full" electronic conveyancing being established. Until technology, and practice adapted to that changing technology, develops, it is distracting to maintain the position in the current legislation.'

The Society says that the current mix of paper and electronic processes enables modernisation as systems develop, despite the risk of a 'registration gap' in which property rights might be created. It recommends that a decision to end paper-based conveyancing should be vested in the secretary of state for business, to be enacted through secondary legislation when the time is right. 'Mandation should only be required once the vast majority of transactions are already carried out through the new service.'

The 72-page response from the Society’s Conveyancing and Land Law Committee covers numerous other aspects of the statute. On boundary disputes, the society broadly supports the commission's proposal for a list of factors that may be used to distinguish boundary and property disputes.

It also observes that 'more than a few' disputes involving residential property would be discouraged at an early stage if the commonly held notion that Land Registry filed plans accurately represent a boundary could be corrected. It strongly recommends the printing of a warning box on every filed plan that the plan does not accurately show the boundaries.  

Overall it describes the Law Commission's consultation paper as 'a very useful exposition of the current law. As might be expected in relation to a consultation paper of almost 500 pages there are several matters where the Society has responded but is still considering matters further with property practitioners and other members including litigation practitioners.'

The Law Commission consultation on reform of the act is now closed. The commission said it aims to publish a draft bill in late 2017.