What is Safe Harbour?
HM Land Registry has introduced a new standard called "Safe Harbour" to improve digital due diligence in property conveyancing.
Understanding the Safe Harbour Standard
Safe Harbour sets rules for legal professionals handling property transactions, especially when using identity verification technology instead of checking physical documents. It mainly focuses on verifying identity and anti-money laundering checks like PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons) and Sanctions.
Safe Harbour Standard Requirements:
The first step in the Safe Harbour standard is to obtain evidence to confirm the person's identity. This evidence should have features that can be checked using cryptographic security, like having an electronic photo for biometric facial recognition. Examples of acceptable documents are biometric passports meeting ICAP e-passport standards, identity cards from EU or EEA countries, and UK biometric residence permits.
Verification of the evidence is the next step, ensuring it is a genuine, unaltered document within its validity period. This validation is achieved through reading the embedded chip in the evidence using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology.
Matching Evidence to Identity
Safe Harbour stipulates a verification process whereby the person presenting the information is matched against the photo on the identity document, further substantiated by a 'liveness check.'
Connecting Parties to Property
The final requirement underscores the importance of establishing a clear connection between the individual and the property by verifying that the name and address align with the information presented by the individual claiming the identity match.
Legal Brokers and Safe Harbour Compliance
Legal Brokers already provides Safe Harbour standard reports. To streamline and simplify this process for both customers and their clients, Legal Brokers has announced the introduction of two new 'Safe Harbour Journeys' within their service offerings (iD-Gold Purchaser and iD-Gold Vendor).
Safe Harbour ID Checks FAQs
Why Is Safe Harbour Check Vital for Conveyancers?
Safe Harbour is crucial for conveyancers using identity verification technology. If you need to verify your client’s details, Safe Harbour is your main protection against potential HM Land Registry claims.
Is Property Fraud a Significant Concern?
Absolutely! There was a notable surge in attempted property fraud cases, with 46 incidents recorded in 2021/22 compared to 25 in 2017/18, representing an alarming 84% increase over five years. These 46 cases translated to a combined value of over £31 million. Property fraud remains one of the most prevalent forms of fraud, comprising 51.1% of detected and prevented fraudulent activities.
What If a Client Doesn't Possess an ePassport?
Unfortunately, in cases where an individual lacks an ePassport, it becomes impossible to fulfil the Safe Harbour standard. However, compliance with regulations and SRA requirements can still be achieved using a passport devoid of a biometric chip.
Safe Harbour Checks for International Clients?
The application of Safe Harbour checks remains consistent whether dealing with domestic or international clients. Many countries issue ePassports, enabling compliance with the standard. When handling foreign-based vendors, proof of residence from their overseas address should be obtained, in addition to two documents linking them to the property being sold in the UK.
Do Specific Terms and Conditions Apply to Safe Harbour Checks?
Under UK GDPR/Data Protection legislation, organisations must maintain transparency regarding the use and sharing of customer data. Therefore, it is advisable to include clauses in your business terms indicating the necessity for identity verification. Mentioning the involvement of trusted third-party providers in the verification process can also be included in your terms. Additionally, your privacy notice should communicate the sharing of personal data with third-party technology companies.