During the peak of COVID, most states and territories implemented temporary legislation allowing individuals to sign documents electronically. Since the expiry of these temporary measures, some of the states have made electronic signing permanent.
In Queensland, amendments to various legislation including the Property Law Act 1974 (Qld), Oaths Act 1867 (Qld) and the Power of Attorney Act 1998 (Qld) now allow individuals to sign documents electronically including deeds, oaths, affidavits, general powers of attorneys and declarations.
Current state of play for signing deeds
The table below outlines which States and Territories have adopted electronic signing of deeds.
|State/Territory||Can a deed be signed electronically||Relevant legislation|
|Queensland||√ Yes – witness not required||
Property Law Act 1974 (Qld)
Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 (Qld)
|New South Wales||√ Yes – witness is required (in person or audio-visual link)||
Conveyancing Act 1919 (NSW)
Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW)
|Northern Territory||X – Not permitted||
|Western Australia||X – Not permitted||N/A|
|South Australia||X – Not permitted||The Electronic Communications Act 2000
(SA) does not apply to documents that must be witnessed (such as a deed).
|Australian Capital Territory||X – Not permitted||N/A|
|Victoria||√ Yes – witness not required||
Electronic Transactions (Victoria) Act 2000
|Tasmania||X – Not permitted||N/A|
As with most legislative amendments, the recent changes bring about practical questions, such as “if the deed is governed by Queensland law but I am residing in NSW can I sign electronically”? and “If the deed is governed by Queensland law but one party resides in South Australia and the other party resides in the Northern Territory, can all parties sign electronically?”
The answer to both these questions is yes. If the document is governed by a state that allows for electronic signing, the individual can sign electronically complying with that state’s laws irrespective of where they reside. It depends on the governing laws of the document itself whether electronic signing is permitted.
It is important to comply with the relevant state’s requirements to ensure you sign properly when using electronic methods.
If you are unsure whether you can sign or witness a document electronically, you should seek independent legal advice to ensure you are complying with the applicable legislation. Improperly signing a document, such as deed, may affect the legal enforceability of that deed.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the new electronic signing laws (including for companies under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), please contact Mahoneys commercial Partner, Antony Harrison, or Lawyer, Sabrina Austin on (07) 3007 3777 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.