Belgian notaries and digitalisation: a (new) love affair
Digitalisation and innovation is all around us these days. This movement is also present in the real estate and Mergers and Acquisitions transaction process. But first things first before we start talking about buying a property via blockchain. The Federation of Belgian Notaries (Fednot) and the Flemish Government have launched new tools to improve the efficiency of transactions, which are summarised in this article.
Launch of an electronic shareholders’ register
On 19 March 2019, the Federation of Belgian Notaries and the Institute of Accountants and Tax Consultants (IAB) announced the launch of a new electronic shareholders’ register.
This new tool will increase the reliability of identifying the shareholder(s) of a company and how many shares they hold. In addition, the new platform will reduce the administrative tasks for directors of companies and other service providers.
The timing of the launch is certainly ideal. The new Belgian Code for Companies & Associations entered into force on 1 May 2019 (the BCCA). As a result, companies will have to bring their articles of association in line with the BCCA on the occasion of the first amendment of their articles of association after 1 January 2020 and, ultimately, by 1 January 2024. Thanks to the BCCA, both private companies (BV/SRL) as well as public limited companies (NV/SA) will be able to issue shares with multiple voting rights. Consequently, an indisputable and up-to-date share register is necessary in order to register those different shares and voting rights.
There is however not yet a legal obligation for companies to issue an electronic shareholders’ register. We will have to await the first legal implementations in this regard.
Execution of a notarial deed by means of video conference
On 21 May 2019, the Federation of Belgian Notaries issued a press release stating that from now on, it is possible to conclude a deed held ‘in front of a notary’ by video conference, e.g. in the case of a sale.
Consequently, if all parties agree to hold the meeting by video conference, it is sufficient for each party to appear before the notary of their own choice and follow the explanation and reading of the notarial deed at a distance. The conference is confidentially held through a secured electronic network connecting the notary offices.
The execution of a notarial deed at a distance has been made legally possible by the law Potpourri V dated 6 July 2017.
However, it is not possible for the parties to execute the notarial deed by electronic signature. The Notarial Deed Bank ("NABAN"), which would be the basis of the dematerialisation of notarial deeds, is not yet operational. Because the notarial deed can only be signed on paper, the party who is attending by video conference is still obliged to give a notarial power of attorney to someone who is present at the office where the deed is executed.
Biddit: the new online platform for property auctions is a great success
On 8 May 2018, Biddit.be, an online platform for public auctions of real estate, was launched by the Federation of Belgian Notaries.
This new online auction application has several advantages. Making a binding offer can be simply done from your computer at home (with use of an e-ID reader) or even from your mobile phone (with use of the app Itsme). From the perspective of the seller, the major advantage of such an online auction is to reach more people, which means more bidders. Each offer made on the online platform is visible for every visitor on Biddit.be, which makes the use very transparent. Lastly, with an online sale at Biddit.be, the notary performs all real estate searches in advance, limiting the timing and process of finalising the notarial deed up to 2 or 3 weeks.
On 4 April 2019 the Federation of Belgian Notaries stated that, since the official start of Biddit on 1 September 2018, more than 1,000 residences, apartments and plots of land had already been offered for sale via the online platform.
The Housing Pass, the digital passport for information and certificates from the Flemish government
When selling a property, a variety of documents and certificates are required from various different authorities (e.g. soil certificate, town planning information, EPC certificate).
To make this process more efficient, the Flemish Decree on the building pass dated 30 November 2018 (Decreet betreffende de gebouwenpas/Décret relatif au passeport bâtiment) was published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 17 December 2018 and entered into force on 27 December 2018
The Housing Pass (woningpas) is an initiative of the Flemish government, in which various entities and/or authorities work together to create a database of all necessary and compulsory information and certificates with regard to your property. The idea is to make this information digitally available at a single centralised location. Currently, the Housing Pass is only available for private residences. In the long run, by 2020, the Housing Pass should be available for all buildings in the Flanders Region.
From a privacy perspective, only the owner or the holder of a right in rem can view the property details by logging in with their e-ID, token or itsme-app.
The Housing Pass can be consulted via www.woningpas.vlaanderen.be.