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The Ins and Outs of Title and Title Insurance

The Ins and Outs of Title and Title Insurance

By:

Meghan Boyer,

Posted June 4, 2024

What is title?

“Title” is a legal term for a person or company’s rights of ownership in a private property. This is different from a “deed”, which is the legal document that transfers title between people.

What is the Land Registry System?

In Ontario, we keep track of ownership rights of private property through the Land Registration system. Lawyers and legal professionals can electronically register records, such as a deed, with the Land Registration system. This must be done for the valid transfer of title. Once the transfer is registered, the details of the ownership of the property are available on a public register. It is not only transfers that are registered on title to the property. Other legal instruments that can be registered include mortgages, easements, covenants, etc.

What is a title search?

When someone is looking to buy or sell a property, they want to be sure that the property has clean title, meaning that there are no unaccounted-for mortgages, writs, or any other problematic legal instrument registered on title. As just one example, old mortgages can sit on title to a property long after they have been paid off if neither party applies to have them discharged. This can cause unnecessary legal and financial work down the line.

A title search is a review of the available records of title to the property to determine ownership and provide you with other important information. This search is generally done by a real estate lawyer or a title company. For more information, see this blog post on why title insurance is important and this one on what a lawyer does to close your home purchase.

What is title insurance?

Title insurance is an insurance owners can purchase to protect their ownership interest in their property from losses resulting from unknown title defects and other issues. For a risk to be covered it must exist as of the date of the policy and the claimant cannot have been aware of the risk prior to purchasing. Some risks covered by title insurance include:

  • Another party claims an interest in your title.
  • Forgery or impersonation that affects the validity of your title.
  • Existing liens against the title, including realty tax arrears and municipal utility charges.
  • Violations of municipal zoning by-laws.
  • Forms of encroachments onto the property or adjoining land.
  • Existing work orders.
  • Lack of legal access to the property.
  • Unmarketability of land due to adverse matters that an up-to-date survey/Real Property Report (RPR)/Building Location Certificate would have revealed.

Solicitor’s Opinion on Title

An alternative to title insurance is to get a solicitor’s opinion on title. This option requires completing various “off-title” searches with the municipality and utility companies, which can be costly. Further, in order to fully complete some of these searches, an up-to-date survey for the property would be required.

These searches would be done to ensure the property is properly zoned and that proper permits and inspections were obtained, that it meets City By-Law requirements, and to confirm that there are no arrears in property tax or municipal utility charges. They can take several weeks to finalize, not including the time to obtain an up-to-date survey which can take a couple of months.

A real estate lawyer can perform or facilitate title searches, register a transfer or other legal instrument to title, and help guide you as to how to ensure adequate protection of your title.

This blog post was written by Daniella Sicoli-Zupo, a Partner in the Real Estate team, and Articling Student Meghan Boyer. Daniella can be reached at 613-369-0378 or at daniella.sicoli-zupo@mannlawyers.com.

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Daniella Sicoli-Zupo

Daniella Sicoli-Zupo

Since being called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995, I have practiced in the areas of family law, real estate law, and wills and estates. In 2005, I focused my practice primarily on assisting clients in the area of residential real estate law. Since 2012, I have also assisted clients with their commercial refinancing and worked with several builders, completing their land development work and sale transactions.  I truly enjoy seeing a development progress from vacant land to the finished project. I am a lifetime resident of Ottawa. I graduated from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1990 then obtained my law degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1993. I was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995. I have sat as the Treasurer and Member of the Board of Directors for Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre in Ottawa. I... Read More

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