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Electronic signatures: A matter of time

8 April 2015
By Tim McKibbin - REINSW CEO

  We saw an exceptionally busy start to 2015, largely due to the NSW Election. With that now behind us, we will focus our efforts towards some solid outcomes for the property industry. We have a strong voice, which could clearly be heard when real estate professionals were embroiled unwillingly in the theatre of the election campaign.

With the election now behind us, we can push forward with our calls for better education standards and partial self-regulation, which are badly needed and must be implemented. 
Another area where NSW is falling behind is the adoption of technology. Over 12 months ago, the South Australian Government passed amendments to the Electronic Transactions Act to allow agents to complete and finalise documents electronically. This is something that we have been lobbying the NSW Government strongly about for several years. 

As many of you will be aware, the technology is available to enable these dealings to occur electronically, and in fact it is legal across several other industries. It is amazing to see that in 2015, the age of the smartphone and unprecedented access to technology, that documents are posted around the world multiple times to be signed, which can create all kinds of problems. 

In November 2014 we saw the introduction of a system allowing people to lodge all their conveyancing documents, including Land Registry, property transfer, refinance and financial settlements online. The ability to electronically sign transfer documents is a great step forward, however there is still more to be done. The next step is signing agency agreements and transacting property.

We are currently working closely with the Law Society and NSW Fair Trading to update the legislation to allow for documents to be signed electronically and follow the pathway created by South Australia. It is critical that NSW, which has the highest volume and largest transactions in the country, steps to the forefront. In order for this to occur, the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 and the Regulation must be updated to recognise and permit electronic signatures. 

We will continue to lobby regarding this issue. It really is only a matter of time before this is implemented, but we should not allow the Government to drag its feet on something that would significantly benefit the consumer and the industry.

Please feel free to contact me, as your feedback is essential to understanding the wants and needs of our members.

This article first appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Real Estate Journal.