Over the past few years, state governments have been implementing more stringent rules when it comes to verifying the identity of parties in conveyancing transactions. These rules have been put into place to help keep property fraud and identity theft at bay, and while practitioners support this effort there are still a lot of misconceptions around these rules especially when it comes to remote verification.
What are the requirements?
Conveyancing rules require practitioners to take reasonable steps to verify the identity of their clients. Rule 6.5.2 of the Model Participation Rules states that in order to comply with the requirement to take reasonable steps, you can either:
(a) apply the Verification of Identity Standard; or
(b) verify the identity of a Person in some other way that constitutes the taking of reasonable steps
According to the ARNECC Model Participation Rules – 6.5, what constitutes reasonable steps is dependent on the circumstances of each individual case. Further enquiries should be made where doubt arises, or should reasonably have arisen, in relation to a transaction and a person’s identity. In cases where verification is unable to be conducted face-to-face due to remoteness, the verification by electronic means with further steps taken to authenticate a person's identity is allowed.
What are the options for remote VOI?
1. Mobile App
Using a mobile app like IDfy allows you to perform VOI remotely from any location, via video. Your client simply and securely sends photos of their identity documents and signs a declaration. Once you've received sufficient identity documents, you arrange a video call with your client to see them face-to-face and take an additional photo of them to confirm likeness to their identity documents. Finally, both you and your client sign declarations and you finalise the VOI to generate the secure VOI report.
2. Web-based VOI
Following similar steps to the above, using a DIY web-based VOI program allows you to verify your client’s identity by allowing them to upload copies of their identity documents securely.
Where to next?
While there may still be clients who remain sceptical about digital solutions, the reality is that the traditional manual method of conducting VOI is filled with security and privacy dangers. Storing hard copies of identity documents leaves your clients information vulnerable to theft and unforeseen natural disasters (flood, fire etc).
Whether you're performing your VOI via a web-based solution or mobile app, where a face-to-face meeting can't be arranged, using either method to conduct VOI remotely is the best, most secure method.
Whichever method of VOI you adopt, it's important to remember that in all cases, including when the VOI Standard is followed, you must undertake further enquiries to verify where doubt arises, or should reasonably have arisen, in relation to a transaction and a person’s identity (Rule 6.5.3). In Guidance Note 2, ARNECC states that the Participation Rules require further steps to be taken where:
• an identity document does not appear to be genuine;
• a photograph on an identity document is not a reasonable likeness;
• the person being identified does not appear to be the person to which the identity documents relate; or
• it is otherwise reasonable to take further steps.
Overall, follow the VOI standard whenever you can and in situations where it’s not possible, use your best judgement and ensure you conduct due diligence in taking reasonable steps to verify identity.