Certified copy requirements in commercial transactions

What is a certified copy?

There will be many points in our lives when we may be requested to provide a certified copy of a document. When you’re buying a house, applying for a bank account, or applying for a job abroad, you’ll often be asked to provide documentation to prove your identity. In commercial transactions, you may need to provide certified copies of documents when applying for a loan or a licence.

Many organisations recognise that it’s not always practical to send the original copy of your document, so many will ask for a certified copy instead.

A certified copy of a document is one that has been signed and dated by a recognised professional person, such as a solicitor, to confirm that it’s a true copy of the original.

Fraud remains a growing problem in the UK. CIFAS reported that 200,000 cases of fraudulent conduct were filed to the National Fraud Database in the first half of 2022 alone, which was a rise of 11% from the previous year.

Certified copies of documents are an important control to prevent fraud through false representation such as through the forgery of key documents, like passports or bank statements.

Which documents can be certified?

You may be requested to provide certified copies of documents that prove your identity or evidence of a claim you’re making, such as a medical condition when making an insurance claim.

The following key documents may be subject to a request to be certified before they are accepted by a company or organisation:

  • A passport;
  • A photocard driving licence;
  • A letter from a government department, such as the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP);
  • A letter from a hospital or a doctor;
  • A bank or building society statement;
  • A bill, such as a gas, electricity, telephone or council tax bill;
  • A credit card bill; or
  • A birth, death or marriage certificate.

Who can authorise a certified copy?

In order to arrange for a document to be certified, you need to understand who can certify the document on your behalf.

The UK Government states that a document can be certified as a true copy of the original by a professional person or a person who is well-respected in your community, otherwise known as a person of “good standing”.

List of professionals who can certify a document

The following professionals are permitted to certify a document as a true copy of the original. Sometimes, the person certifying the document may charge a fee for the service.

  • A bank or building society employee;
  • A councillor;
  • A recognised minister of religion;
  • A doctor or dentist;
  • A chartered accountant;
  • A solicitor;
  • A notary; or
  • A teacher or lecturer.

You’ll need to check the exact requirements of the organisation that is requesting a certified copy of your document. Some organisations will have specific certification rules governing who can sign a copy. For example, some organisations may accept a certified copy from a retired professional.

When you apply for a new passport or renewal, you’ll be required to provide a countersigned photo to prove your identity. There are specific rules about passport photos, including that your countersignatory must have known you for at least two years, can identify you, and be a “person of good standing in their community”.

Similarly, there are different rules in place around making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) that are intended to ensure that you are making the LPA by choice and that you understand what you’re doing.

Who can’t certify a document

In the UK, there are specific people who cannot certify a document on your behalf. These include:

  • Anyone who is related to you – in some cases, this may even include a person who is related to you by marriage e.g. a brother- or sister-in-law
  • Anyone who lives at the same address as you
  • Any person in a relationship with you

These conditions override the requirement for a professional to certify the document copy, so even if your mother is a chartered accountant, she cannot certify the document for you.

The post office

Another great option for obtaining a certified copy of your documents, particularly if you’re in a hurry, is via a trip to the Post Office.

For a small fee, the Post Office can certify your documents as a “true likeness” of the original over the counter. To make use of the service, you bring the original document and any photocopies that you need to be certified to the Post Office, which will complete the certification, return the originals and copies, and provide you with a receipt.

The important details that must be confirmed for a document to be certified

So as not to waste any time with documents that are not certified properly, it’s important to understand the vital details that need to be confirmed by the person performing the certification. There’s nothing more frustrating than sending away your documents in good faith to have them returned because they were not certified properly. It can lead to a rejection of your application or a delay in processing.

For a document to be properly certified, the person completing the certification must have both the original document and the photocopied document. He or she must then certify the copy by:

  • Writing “Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me”;
  • Signing and dating the photocopy;
  • Printing their name underneath their signature; and
  • Adding their occupation, address and telephone number.

If the document to be certified includes a photo, you may find that the certifier needs to include the words “I confirm that this is an accurate copy of the original and the photo is a true likeness of the person concerned”.

The absence of any of these details may make the certified copy invalid.

It’s also worth checking with the organisation requesting the certified copy whether they have any specific requirements.

Contact Waldrons

Our expert team at Waldrons can provide specialist legal advice across a range of legal issues to both individuals and businesses. Get in touch today for a free initial telephone conversation to discuss your claim or needs.

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