Dear Members,

I refer to our previous advice regarding the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and links provided to relevant government websites.

You will have seen and read the continuing reports of the spread of the virus.

Working remotely

To help slow the spread of the virus and protect staff, clients and visitors, many businesses have commenced working remotely and conducting appointments over the phone or using Face Time, Skype, Zoom or similar platforms.

The AICSA is not going to provide you with guidance as to whether your office should remain open. This is a matter and decision for you to make based on your own circumstances. However, there are a number of mechanisms that can be introduced to reduce the risk to you and your staff, including advising clients of the following matters:

·        If you are scheduled to attend our premises over the coming months, we request that you put your own (and others) health first and stay at home should you feel unwell with flu-like symptoms.

·        If you have returned from any overseas country in the past 14 days, or have had close contact with someone who has, please do not visit our office. Call us and make alternative arrangements.

·        If attending our office is absolutely necessary, please use the hand sanitiser* provided at entry points and in meeting areas. Further, the office will be a ‘hands-free’ environment, and we ask you refrain from handshakes and be vigilant when touching surfaces such as door handles etc.

·        Our service to clients remains a priority, as well as the confidentiality of client information. If you have any concerns during this time please do not hesitate to contact your conveyancer.

Furthermore, we recommend that clients only attend your office with a prearranged appointment – no appointment, no meeting. Additionally, we recommend you wipe down all surfaces prior to any client meeting and immediately after the meeting and wash your hands thoroughly.

LTO Settlement Room

Members are reminded of their obligations to employees to ensure as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers and others at their workplace. This includes providing and maintaining a work environment that is without risks to health and safety. The LTO Settlement Room is a workplace and you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your staff when they attend there.

The LTO Settlement Room currently remains open. However, in the last days and hours some conveyancers and solicitors have advised the AICSA, in accordance with their obligations stated above, that their staff will not be attending face to face settlements at the LTO Settlement Room until further notice.

The following is a useful link to the SafeWorkSA Coronavirus (COVID – 19) Workplace Information:

https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/news/coronavirus-covid-19-workplace-information#

Your business needs to make a decision regarding whether your staff should attend the Settlement Room and in doing so we urge you to read the SafeWork SA information.  If you attend, you are advised to as far as possible to employ social distancing when in this room i.e. to keep a distance of 1.5 metres from others (See https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-social-distancing.pdf ). Obviously, social distancing is going to be difficult when transacting a settlement.

Verification of Identity

The current requirements for verification of identity are the South Australian Registrar-General’s Verification of Identity Requirements Version 5 . Clause 4.1 of these Requirements require that a representative must take “reasonable steps” to verify the identity of their client when their client signs a Client Authorisation form authorising the representative to execute a Registry Instrument or to execute a caveat on behalf of the client. Clause 6 sets out a Verification of Identity Standard (the Standard) requiring the verification of identity to be conducted during a face-to-face, in-person interview between the Identity Verifier and the Person Being Identified. This is the ‘safe harbour’ standard.

The decision to apply the Standard or reasonable steps must be made on a case by case basis and this is a decision you will need to make based on your own and your client’s circumstances.

The Institute advises that it may not be possible in these unprecedented times for the Verification of Identity Standard to be complied with given the need to maintain a safe workplace for you and your staff. The Institute does recommend that the use of VOI services by Australia Post or other VOI agents should be used where available in the first instance.

However, as the spread of Covid19 intensifies it may be necessary where safe to employ measures such as using Skype and video-conferencing technology such as Zoom in order to verify the identity of your client. The Institute cannot advise you on whether this would or would not constitute reasonable steps as this must be based on a case by case basis and is subject to further checks you should carry out in conjunction with the interview – you should refer to the Registrar-General’s Verification Standard for more information. The Institute does not recommend the use of a telephone conversation for this purpose, you must be able to visually see and identify the client.

If you choose one of the listed methods the Institute recommends you keep extensive file notes regarding the means by which the interview took place (including time and place), matters discussed, take a screen shot (if working on a PC you can use the ‘Snipping Tool’ (see https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4027213/windows-10-open-snipping-tool-and-take-a-screenshot) and retain a copy on file as a record. You should also ensure further checks are in place (see Identity Matching Service below).

Whilst this advice is precautionary at present, it is important that businesses review their systems should face to face interviews, or services such as Australia Post VOI, become unavailable.

The Institute does not support the ongoing use of Skype etc. for VOI. Once the threat of COVID19 has diminished and we have returned to normal business practices, the Institute would advocate for a full return to the use of the Standard which requires a face to face interview.

In terms of a client providing you with relevant documentation we advise that WhatsApp (https://www.whatsapp.com/)  provides an encrypted service and may be an option for a client to send you scanned copies of relevant documentation. You could also view this documentation when speaking to them online.

Identity Matching Service

Members are referred to the Identity Matching Services website operated by the Federal government.

https://beta.idmatch.gov.au

This may assist with verifying the legitimacy of verification documents.

The Identity Matching Service compares the personal information on identity documents against existing government records, such as passports, driver licences and birth certificates to ensure they are not fraudulent. The services are provided through secure, online systems that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The services are provided through a partnership between the Australian Government, state and territory governments, under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Identity Matching Services. The Document Verification Service (DVS) checks whether the biographic information on an identity document matches the original record. The result will simply be ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The DVS does not check facial images. The DVS makes it harder for people to use fake identity documents.

ID Match does offer a Face Verification Service but this is only available to government agencies.

The following documents can checked by the Identity Matching Service:

·        birth certificates

·        Centrelink concession cards

·        certificates of registration by descent

·        change of name certificates

·        citizenship certificates

·        driver licences

·        ImmiCards

·        marriage certificates

·        Medicare cards

·        passports

·        visas

In terms of ‘reasonable steps’ employed to identify an individual, seeking the assistance of a service such as the ID Matching Services should be considered. The website contains details of how you can become a business user of these services and the cost.

The AICSA office remains staffed but as advised in a previous email visits to the office must be pre-arranged. In the event that the office is closed down, staff will work remotely and provide all the usual services. If you need, please ring or email us. Stay safe in these difficult times.

Federal Government advice

The Australian Government is continually updating its COVID-19 advice information and resources. We advise Members to check for current information, including at:

·        Australian Government Department of Home Affairs Travel Restrictions

·        Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert (updated daily)

·        Australian Government Department of Health Isolation Guidance

or call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.

Kind regards

Rebecca Hayes
Chief Executive Officer

*We understand hand sanitiser is a little hard to locate on supermarket shelves so it may be that you need to make your own – here is a recipe (there are more on the internet) https://www.taste.com.au/articles/make-own-hand-sanitiser/b6yhw28p

 

Go Back to the Covid information page.