Securing the House: Digital Identity for UK’s Residential Housing Market - Identity Review - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

To solve the problem of having to prove one’s identity multiple times while dealing with residential properties, Etive has received a grant from Innovate UK—a non-governmental research body responsible for consulting with the UK government on all things innovation—to create a solution based on digital identity verification schemes. Once developed, the technology will be distributed to both buyers, sellers, and all those in between, namely mortgage providers and conveyancers.

To Be Aligned with DCMS

Although the technology is for the housing market, it is based on standards created by the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). The unlikely pairing has an explanation, according to Stuart Young, Managing Director at Etive.

DCMS are currently working on a digital identity framework for the UK. Within this Framework they want each sector to develop their own Scheme, aligned to DCMS/Government policy and requirements based around GPG45 standards and AML regulations. This Scheme is working on GPG45 standards to ensure compliance with DCMS and, very importantly, interoperability with the financial services identity scheme, which is also being developed.”

The housing market is the first of many adhering to DCMS standards.

A Group Effort

Alongside Etive are 89 other organizations intent on modifying the very core of the real estate industry. Their mindset is to, at least at the outset, start inward.

“In order to implement a change, we had agreed from the outset that the project would only succeed if we did this in small steps, so initial focus is on the residential property sector,” Young says. “One key government and industry objective is to improve the process for home buyers and sellers and help reduce the number of failed transactions and associated costs.”

The choice was also obvious. 

“In 2018, the MHCLG consultation highlighted that of 1.2 million residential transactions, 300,000 failed due to broken chains, costing sellers on average £2,700, with a total cost to the market of £400 million,” he says. “There is a clearer business case and pressing need as it directly benefits the consumer.”

The scheme plans on addressing the commercial sector at a later point.

Change, For the Better

With COVID-19 and the uptick in ID fraud, a standard like this could ease the burden on customers, downgrading the amount of channels that need to be entered and reducing sales delays.

“We think that it may take a while for it to fully filter down through the market but we know that increased digitization of the transaction process is being worked on by HM Land Registry,” says Young.  “COVID has sadly accelerated the need for improved digital identity verification, and as a result, many estate agencies and conveyancing [large] firms are embracing this change. They need to improve their identity verification process due to changes in the AML regulation [of 2019].”

The standards will hold a number of compliant ID schemes for businesses within the industry to use, any of which can verify identity and share attributes of other compliant schemes.


Olivia Baker is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she writes on tech policy and national digital identity technologies.

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