By November 6, 2020News & Events

In the current digital age and with many businesses now steering towards the paperless path, you may have noticed digital signatures have become the ‘new norm’ when signing official documents. Whether it’s committing to that personal loan from the bank or signing that sweet deal on the sale of your property, you may have been offered the option to sign electronically. 

Advantages and Accessibility 

Turnaround times can be drastically reduced when clients sign their documents electronically; enabling the business and the client to achieve results more efficiently than if everyone were to sign a paper copy in person.  Not to mention cutting down on negative environmental impact.   

And who wouldn’t appreciate that you can sign virtually anywhere? If your mobile phone supports email and a web browser, you can sign your document anywhere on the planet…providing there’s internet access. There’s always a catch!

Are electronic signatures legally binding?

Electronic signatures have been recognised by law in Australia since 1999 with the passage of the Electronic Transactions Act. Under this act, it states contracts and agreements cannot be denied enforceability merely because they are signed digitally. Of course there are cases where handwritten or ‘wet ink’ signatures are legally required, but for Real Estate you’ll find in certain paperwork that they’re not necessary. In most, but not all.

But, it’s not my signature?

True, your signature may not appear exactly as it would if you signed with a pen on paper. But rest assured this doesn’t void the legality of the signature. 

Through programs like DocuSign there’s different ways your signature may be generated. If you’re signing on a mobile device it may prompt you to draw your signature on the screen, and on a desktop computer it may offer your name in different fonts for you to pick from. 

Do I need a witness if I sign electronically?

No, you also won’t need to initial each page. Most REIQ forms specify that initials and witnesses aren’t necessary if you’re signing electronically. An exception to this is if you’re initialling a legal amendment to a contract or agreement.  

How do I prove it was me who signed if I don’t need a witness?

With your email address. For each individual signing a document there must be a separate email address. Unfortunately this requirement means couples sharing an email address, or someone who simply doesn’t have their own email address, can’t sign electronically as each individual’s identity cannot be verified.  

Documents have been signed using DocuSign in more than 180 countries worldwide, so there’s no denying the convenience of eSignatures is only going to extend further into our lives as the world becomes increasingly digital. And with the sudden impact of COVID-19 at the start of the year, Real Estate, along with all those in business, was forced to adapt its ways to protect and support it’s clientele. 

Even if you’re not very technologically savvy, there’s no better time to consider letting the old ballpoint have a day off.  

Photo credit: Adobe Stock & Chrissy Harris

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