Real estate fraud is becoming more and more common. Where it was once unheard of for someone to pose as an owner and sell a property belonging to someone else, this is no longer a rare incident. Throughout the past few years, a huge spike has occurred in real estate fraud throughout Canada and BC, but we can help prevent it.
There are 2 main types of fraud – mortgage fraud and title fraud.
The typical mortgage fraud scenario occurs when a fraudster uses false identification to impersonate the true owner of the property. Using this false identification, the fraudster approaches a lender, has a mortgage approved and signs all the necessary documents. Neither the lender nor the lawyer/notary is aware that the identification is false, resulting in a charge on title. By the time the true owner learns of the mortgage, the fraudster has vanished. Unfortunately, the true owner of the property must bear the expense of cancelling the mortgage.
A rarer, yet more serious, fraud is title fraud. Again, using false identification, the fraudster approaches a realtor to list the property. The contract of purchase and sale is entered, and again all necessary documents are signed using the false identification. Neither the realtor nor lawyer/notary is aware that the identification is false, resulting in a transfer of title from the true owner to an innocent third-party purchaser. By the time the true owner learns of the transfer, the fraudster has vanished.
The effects of title fraud are much more serious, and often devastating. Why? Because in British Columbia a person may lose their home if the fraudster sells to an innocent third party. Yes, someone could forge the identity of an unsuspecting homeowner, sell that property to a bona fide purchaser who has no knowledge of the fraud, and the current homeowner loses their home. The true owner can apply for compensation from the Assurance Fund which is administered by the Land Title and Survey Authority; however, the bona fide purchaser will retain title to the home.
Fraudsters prefer to work with properties that are ‘free and clear’ of all financial charges, so an owner could place a line of credit type mortgage on title. This will reduce, but not eliminate the risk of title fraud. Alternatively, the true owner could obtain a title insurance policy to cover the costs of clearing title or compensate for the loss of title. Again, this does not eliminate or even reduce the risk of title fraud, title insurance only offers an easier path of compensation. Title insurance, however, will not prevent mortgage or title fraud.
The only way to prevent real estate fraud from ever occurring for mortgage-free homes is to pull and secure the Duplicate Indefeasible Title Certificate (DIT) from the Land Title Survey Authority (LTSA). By pulling the DIT from the LTSA, the title to the home is effectively frozen, ensuring no party (even the homeowner) can place a charge on the title, or transfer title to a third party.
Proper storage of the DIT is critical. If the document is ever lost a new certificate must be issued from the LTSA, a process that can take months and several thousand dollars. Any owner pulling the DIT should take great care to not lose that document.
If your home is free and clear of any mortgages, and this fraud prevention is of importance to you, you have options:
If you would like to have us pull and provide you with the DIT, or store it on your behalf, please email us at email@example.com, or call us at 604-527-4242. We will ensure that no fraudster will register a mortgage or sell your property. We look forward to being of service.
Having the Duplicate Indefeasible Title out of the LTSA effectively freezes the title. No changes are possible, even if the owner applies on their own. The DIT must be returned to the LTSA before any changes can be made to the title to the property,
Yes, here is the link to the LTSA package – https://ltsa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Duplicate-Indefeasible-Title-Certificate.pdf Pull the form from the LTSA website, print, sign and return to them. The LTSA will mail you the DIT which you should store in a safe place. Service fees are just under $80.00.
The DIT must be returned to the LTSA. If we are storing the DIT, simply give us no less than 5 business days’ notice and we will return it to the LTSA, at which point the title is available to be changed.
A financial charge such as a mortgage or HELOC only reduces, not eliminates, the risk of fraud. It is also more expensive than any of the solutions we suggest.
If the client is interested in financial options they should explore this. For some clients it may be a good pre-retirement strategy to place a line of credit on title as it provides significant and cost effective borrowing power if it is ever needed. From a risk management point of view there is little doubt in our mind that pulling the DIT is the most secure option.
Much like fire insurance does not prevent a fire, title insurance does not prevent fraud. Our solution eliminates the risk of title fraud. We are big fans of title insurance, but not for those who own their property with title free and clear and are concerned about title fraud. Title insurance has other benefits and protections, but if the homeowner wants to prevent fraud, pulling the DIT is the preferred option.
We can tell you that losing a DIT is a major problem. The first file Tony ever did in 1989 was a sale in East Vancouver where the homeowner lost the DIT. It took months and several thousand dollars to issue a replacement. While the process is a bit more streamlined now than in 1989, it is still time consuming and expensive to have it replaced. If a sale is imminent, the consequences could be significant.
You must return the DIT to the LTSA. If we are storing the DIT, simply give us at least 5 business days’ notice and we will return the DIT to the LTSA. The property can be listed before this of course, but the DIT must be returned to the LTSA prior to closing.
As noted above a mortgage does not eliminate the risk of fraud.
No, the title is frozen.