May 17, 2022

What is Safe Harbour and Why Should You Care?

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Perfect Portal
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It has always been a requirement of the legal sector that law firms take steps to ensure the identity of their clients is verified. This is a key part of achieving ‘Safe Harbour’ status set by the HM Land Registry, which is essential for law firms looking to protect themselves from potential claims. In this blog post, we will explore the various methods that can be used to verify the identities of clients and look at some of the benefits of doing so.

The importance of verifying client identities cannot be overstated, and law firms that neglect to do so could face serious consequences should something go wrong. By taking appropriate measures to ensure that only legitimate clients are acted upon. You can rest assured that your law firm is protected against any possible risks.

What is “Safe Harbour?”

The term "safe harbour" is used to describe a legal provision in the statute or regulation that provides protection from liability when certain conditions are met.

While there's no legal requirement for law firms to use the new standard at this moment in time, it does provide some comfort knowing that if conveyancers comply with these standards, then they will be safe from any recourse against their firm, should a client not be who they claim to be. That means reaching "Safe Harbour".

The digital identity standard requires four levels of conduct from law firms to ensure they are compliant with their clients' transactions. We've outlined the levels below:

Requirement 1 - Obtain Evidence through three different methods.

  • Biometric passports that meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) specifications for e-passports
  • Identity cards from an EU or EEA (European Economic Area) country that follow the Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 standards and contain biometric information
  • A UK biometric residence permit

Requirement 2 - Check the Evidence

  • Check the digital signature is correct for the organisation that issued the evidence
  • Check the signing key belongs to the organisation and has not been revoked
  • Extract the biometric information needed for requirement 3

Requirement 3 - Match the evidence to the identity

  • Use photographs or video (that are captured live as part of the checking process). This is also known as an enhanced ‘liveness’ test.
  • Identify when someone is trying to use a presentation attack (known as an anti-spoofing check).
  • The person’s biometric information is captured under controlled conditions that do not reduce the accuracy of the type of biometric check being used. A number of factors can have an impact on the success rate for face biometrics such as light or noise.
  • Use a biometric algorithm that’s been proven to be effective against a recognised benchmark, like the National Institute of Standard and Technology’s (NIST’s) face recognition vendor test guidance
  • Have a false match (where the system has incorrectly identified the individual) of a maximum rate of 0.01%
  • Have a maximum non false match rate (where the system has incorrectly rejected the individual) of 1%.

Requirement 4 - Obtain evidence to ensure the transferer or, borrower or lessor is the same person or entity as the owner.

The HM Land Registry requires two types of evidence to connect the individual to the property.

There are currently 13 different types of evidence that link the individual, these include utility bills, bank or building society statements dated within the last 3 months, local authority council tax bills for the current financial year original mortgage statements from a recognised lender for the last full year. For a full list of click here.

So how does Perfect Portal fit into all of this?

We have recently introduced Safe Harbour via the integration with InfoTrack’s ECOS (Electronic Client Onboarding Solution).

Law firms will no longer need to use multiple systems to gather the critical Verification of Identity information (VOI) to cover the four core requirements set out above by the HM Land Registry.

The way this is delivered is unique and will help Perfect Portal clients in just a few clicks gain ‘Safe Harbour’ status as well as delivering a seamless hassle-free client user journey.

With Perfect Portal your law firm will be able to confirm the VOI directly through their dedicated branded app. This means no more hyperlinks or having to use multiple systems for every type of client you have - now it's all in one place making it easy for your team and your clients. The integration with InfoTrack is the icing on the cake.

With Perfect Portal, law firms can gain the key information needed and meet all four areas of Safe Harbour compliance.

We want to see more law firms embrace this initiative set out by the HM Land Registry as it not only protects clients but law firms too. With several recent stories in the press relating to fraudulent transactions and falsifying details, the number of attacks on law firms continues to grow. It isn’t a case of if it happens to your law firm…but when will it happen?

Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal's CEO & Founder

"With the integration of Perfect Portal and InfoTrack’s eCOS we have combined and created a unique, secure, and effective solution that will help law firms to reach ‘Safe Harbour’ compliant Digital ID Verification status.

We know law firms take their clients security very seriously and we want to help them deliver a secure solution that will help protect not only the client but their law firm too. With this new initiative we hope more law firms will look to deliver and become part of the ‘Safe Harbour’ directive."

The Perfect Portal team continue to innovate and support the legal sector in the quest to deliver a safe an accurate service not only for the law firm but clients too. The UK Legal services is a delicate and fragile industry that has a pedigree for being one of the best in the world. We need to live up to that reputation not just with great legal services but with the technology to match.

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