eConveyancing, electronic conveyancing, e-settlements – however you want to refer to it, it’s finally been mandated in South Australia, so I guess you could say that today is officially ‘e-day’!

From today (3 August 2020), the electronic lodgement of documents with Land Services SA will be mandatory. And it’s certainly been a long time coming! eConveyancing has been a hot topic in the property industry in recent years, and even more so since the amendment bill was passed in the State’s Upper House in June 2016 which allowed for eConveyancing to be introduced into the South Australian market on 4 July 2016.

Until today, eConveyancing had not been mandated across the State, meaning it had been up to individual conveyancers and clients to decide whether they were willing to elect to settle a transaction electronically.

What is eConveyancing?

E-conveyancing involves the transition from paper-based conveyancing to a digital-based process, including:

  • the preparation of registry instruments and other documents in electronic form for the purposes of land title legislation
  • settlement of property transactions electronically
  • lodgement of registry instruments and other documents with Land Registries electronically

Why we need eConveyancing

The reason South Australia (and the nation) needs eConveyancing is that the real estate sector in this country is worth $6 trillion and yet conveyancing of property titles is using a system more than 150 years old.

PEXA CEO Marcus Price is on record saying, ‘the residential property market is Australia’s biggest asset class and too important to be held back by current error-prone settlement practices, causing 1 in 3 consumers unnecessary stress.’

But, it’s really just business as usual

The forced closure of the Lands Titles Office (LTO) Settlements Room at close of business on 20 March 2020 due to COVID restrictions around large gatherings, essentially forced the majority of transactions online, as conveyancers had no other choice but to move to electronic settlements. Those conveyancers who weren’t settling electronically, or who were only settling a portion of their files electronically, needed to quickly adapt and use the PEXA online settlement platform for all settlements.

So as much of a big and a long-anticipated change it has been to get us to today where all property transfer transactions in SA must be electronic, it actually feels a little anti-climactic, as it’s pretty much just business as usual to what the bulk of conveyancers across South Australia have been doing since 23 March.

There had been previous conjecture that electronic conveyancing would potentially be mandated in a staged approach. However in light of current restrictions on physical gatherings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the readiness of the industry to embrace eConveyancing to navigate these restrictions, the SA Government felt that the timing was right to introduce mandating of eConveyancing.

There are some exemptions to the mandating for out of the ordinary transactions or documents that don’t fit into the scope of PEXA at the moment, these will still be able to be completed in paper.

Consistency and efficiencies welcomed by the industry

Pre-COVID-19, a conveyancing transaction couldn’t be completed electronically unless all parties (both the conveyancer acting for the vendor and the conveyancer acting for the purchaser plus any Lenders involved) were eConveyancing subscribers and were wanting to transact electronically.

This disparity, with some conveyancers wanting to settle transactions electronically and others via the traditional processes, had previously led to inconsistency and inefficiencies. This led to an overall lack of uptake of eConveyancing for transfer transactions across the industry until COVID-19 hit.

Will eConveyancing in South Australia affect me?

My best advice, as always, is to ask your conveyancer because they are your trusted advisor guiding you through the settlement process and they will/should have their finger on the pulse.

Looking more broadly, we should all be affected in a positive way, when electronic conveyancing is in full flight because less red tape leads to a more efficient economy.

Seamless transition

At Eckermann Conveyancers, the way we will settle files today onwards will be no different to how transfer transactions have taken place for the last four plus months. Since March we have definitely noticed the benefits for both our industry and consumers, with all parties benefiting from faster, more transparent and efficient processes.