Title fraud is an issue that has garnered a significant amount of press over the last few months. All of us want to know that the title we hold in our homes is secure and that our homes cannot be sold from under us or otherwise encumbered. This is true whether buying a first home, transferring a home to a joint owner, or selling a home pursuant to the terms of a Will. Forged powers of attorney for property can also be problematic in this regard.
Recently, the Ontario Government introduced legislation to address the issue of title fraud. If passed, the proposed legislation would ensure that ownership of a property could not be lost as a result of the registration of a falsified mortgage, fraudulent sale, or counterfeit power of attorney. Instead, an innocent homeowner’s title would be restored to them and the fraudulent document would be nullified. The proposed legislation will also introduce new safeguards for suspending and revoking the accounts of fraudsters so that they cannot register documents, and raise existing fines for real estate fraud related offences from $1,000 to $50,000.
However, in introducing its legislation, the government was quick to note that while individual cases of title fraud were always of concern, real estate fraud was limited in comparison to the more then two million real estate transactions that occur each year in Ontario.
Title fraud has been an issue that the Ontario Government has had some concern with. For example, the Government sought leave to intervene in real estate fraud case before the Ontario Court of Appeal in support of Ontario homeowner who was defrauded of her home.
Currently, homeowners in Ontario enjoy some protection from real estate fraud. The Land Titles Assurance Fund was created to compensate consumers for errors in the system and fraud. There are other means by which a consumer can protect himself or herself, including purchasing title insurance. Additionally, the electronic land registration system enhanced the security of the land registry by imposing increased identification requirements. In the end, the proposed legislation should go a long way to offering full protection to the public.
Have a great day.
Justin de Vries