Title Fraud: It’s much less common than you think.

As usual, the mainstream media is generating fear of this and that by focusing on a certain narrative without giving the full context. It seems to be generating some business for the opportunistic as I’ve heard certain radio ads out there are taking advantage of this current fear.  Sounds to me like the ever popular “sell the problem and the product will sell itself” approach where we are introduced to a problem we never knew we had, but suddenly seconds later we are shown how their product magically solves everything. This time it’s not ring around the collar or dishpan hands, it’s about title fraud.

A few years back when this post was originally published (2008), BCREA (British Columbia Real Estate Association), released the following statement in response to the growing fears that resulted as a result to these headlines. I have not found any information that is more recent that changes the perspective laid out here:

Putting title fraud in perspective

Title fraud made its way into the media headlines earlier this summer, creating an unhealthy climate of fear that unnecessarily worried land owners. REALTORS® felt the heat too, as their buyers and sellers asked whether they and their properties were safe from fraud.

The facts are that BC’s land title system is one of the safest in the world, there is no pattern of increased title fraud and the Assurance Fund is available to compensate owners in the very unlikely case that they are financially affected by a title registration error.

There are more than 1.9 million active titles in BC. In the past 18 years, the land title system processed 15 million transactions—yet only two claims related to land ownership fraud and only 14 fraud claims related to lesser interests in land, such as discharges of mortgage, were paid out from the Assurance Fund.

The Land Title and Survey Authority is continually looking for ways to enhance the security of the system. If your client wants added protection, you can suggest these simple steps:

  • Owners, via a lawyer or notary, may use the Activity Advisory Service provided by BC OnLine. It notifies the legal professional when an application affecting the owner’s title is made to the Land Title Office (LTO).

  • Registry Agents can conduct title searches for homeowners wishing to check the status of their titles, and some agents may provide access to the Activity Advisory Service.

  • An owner who doesn’t have a mortgage or agreement for sale registered on their title can apply for a Duplicate Certificate of Title through their lawyer or notary, or at an LTO. No sale, transfer, mortgage or agreement for sale may be registered while the owner holds that Duplicate Certificate (the Duplicate must be stored in a secure location, such as a safety deposit box, to avoid the considerable time and cost associated with replacing it).

Ryan Coffey

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