Legal Insights

Update: Electronic execution of Council property documents

By Marine Nincevic, Guy O'Connor

• 09 November 2020 • 1 min read

For parties entering into legal agreements, physical distancing requirements have meant that the traditional signing of paper documents in ‘wet ink’ has become impractical or impossible.

The Victorian government has responded by introducing measures to facilitate the electronic execution of legal documents. These measures are designed to temporarily relax the legal requirements which would otherwise prevent certain types of documents from being signed electronically (eg: documents required to be executed as deeds, such as leases and s173 agreements).

Under the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Electronic Signing and Witnessing) Regulations 2020 (Vic) (Regulations), it is now clear that in Victoria, deeds can be executed and delivered electronically.

If a signing clause requires a witness (noting that this is not always required for persons who sign on behalf of councils), the signature can be witnessed by any person over the age of 18. Witnessing can be done in the following ways:

1. in person in the usual way, at the same time that the signatory signs the document; or

2. remotely via audio visual link, in accordance with regulation 10 of the Regulations. This process requires the witness to:

  • observe the signatory signing the document (or affixing their electronic signature to the document) via video link; and
  • when the witness adds their own signature to the document, write a statement accompanying their signature as follows: “I confirm that I witnessed the execution of this agreement by [insert name] over audio visual link in accordance with the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Electronic Signing and Witnessing) Regulations 2020.”

The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Act 2020 (Vic) has recently extended the sunset date for the Regulations until 26 April 2021, to continue to facilitate electronic signing and remote witnessing of deeds.

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