Clarence Maquito, Real Estate Broker
Sutton Group-Admiral Realty Inc, Brokerage
Title fraud generally hurts individual homeowners. It often involves fraudsters using stolen identity or forged documents to transfer a registered owner's title to himself or herself, securing a mortgage on the property, and then disappearing with the mortgage proceeds.
There is a perception that there is an epidemic of title fraud in Ontario. This is not the case. The incidence of title fraud is, in fact, relatively low - about 10 cases out of 2.2. million (courtesy of the Ministry of Consumer Services) real estate transactions per year. But even 1 case is too many, which is why a number of steps have been taken to minimize the risk of title fraud.
To address this issue, the Ontario government recently amended the province's land registration laws to:
- Ensure that a homeowner will not lose their property due to the registration of a falsified mortgage, fraudulent sale or counterfeit power of attorney. The changed laws will ensure that an innocent homeowner will not have their home stolen from under them.
- Improve the government's ability to return title to the rightful owner in the event of fraud.
- Create an expedited process for the Land Title Assurance Fraud. The Ministry is now able to make earlier payments to innocent individual homeowners or purchasers of a home, who have suffered a loss in a clear case of fraud. As long as there is no court proceeding and both the victim and his/her lawyer are cooperative, the Ministry will ensure that title is returned and a decision is made within 90 days.
- Ensure fraudsters do not have access to the system. The Director of Titles will have additional powers to suspend or revoke an individual's access to the electronic registration system.
- Dramatically increase existing fines for real estate-related offences to $50,000.
Title fraud is limited in comparison to the number of real estate transactions that occur every year. However, even 1 case is unacceptable, and this is an important issue for us, Ontarians. These new measures are a significant step forward, but ongoing work needs to occur to ensure that we stay 1 step ahead of fraudsters.
You may wish to consider title insurance as an additional means of protecting your property's interest. In fact, many mortgage companies require future homeowners to purchase title insurance. To find out more about title insurance, please feel free to call or e-mail me.