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Moving to paperless conveyancing

Moving to paperless conveyancing

By 1 August 2019 all transactions must be lodged electronically.Practitioners need to prepare for the change. Snapshot By 1 August 2019, all property settlements must be lodged electronically. Advantages of electronically signed s32s include: avoiding inaccuracies on handwritten documents; and the parties’ location no longer matters. When I started doing property settlements in the mid-1980s the Titles Office was a rabbit warren of rooms and towers of paper. A few years ago I found myself working in property again when my firm First Class Legal started. Very little had changed in the intervening years. So much was still paper-centric. Preparing property contracts was the same process it had always been. We do so much online now in our personal and professional lives. Everything is accessible on our smart phones. Why, then, should selling and buying property and the conveyancing process be stuck in the paper-centric days of last century? We are early adopters of electronic conveyancing at First Class Legal. We were the first incorporated legal practice in Melbourne to facilitate an electronic settlement, in April 2015. We were the first firm to do a fully paperless end to-end electronic conveyance, in Greensborough, from auction contract in September 2016 to PEXA settlement in January 2017. Obvious advantages of electronically signed s32s and contracts include: no need to waste paper, no more worrying about printer issues, no more time-consuming binding and collating and no more reliance on snail mail. Another advantage is the avoidance of inaccuracies on handwritten documents. There is only one master contract so there is only one lot of data entry. Also, the parties’ location no longer matters. Parties can be in different countries when they sign a contract. We had a vendor in June sign his auction contract electronically in live conditions from his home in the United States. Once the s32 and contract are signed, the other element that can now be done electronically is the settlement via PEXA. We have not had one client object to settling electronically. Even older clients say they wonder why this could not have happened before? It cannot be overlooked that Land Use Victoria has a timeline for 100 per cent digital lodgment. More and more transactions are mandated to be lodged electronically, culminating in all transactions by 1 August 2019. This date will be upon us before we know it. I understand that there is fear of the unknown and it takes time to learn a new way of doing things. With paperless conveyancing, though, different parts can be adopted and trialled. There is no need to eliminate paper all in one hit. Cost is not a barrier as there is no significant investment to make. Joining Duties Online and PEXA is free. So too is generating electronic s32s and contracts. There is a fee for using PEXA and also for using an electronic signature but these fees can be passed on to clients as disbursements. In my experience, clients love the efficiency of electronic processes. While the legal profession may be slow to adapt to technological change, other industries are not. Our clients are quite often tech-savvy and embracing of anything that is electronic, easier and more efficient. I believe that refusing to make the move to paperless conveyancing (or even merely lagging behind) is a detriment to a property practitioner. Leonie Jarrett is the principal and solicitor at First Class Legal. Last month’s column “Laying the Foundations” was incorrectly attributed. It was written by Penny Flint, the principal lawyer at start-up firm Peninsula Injury Lawyers.

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