“I have a client who thinks her husband may have placed another mortgage on their home without her knowledge. I heard you can do a title search down at the courthouse. Is that correct? How does that work? ”
J.S. from Ontario
Yes, your client (or anyone for that matter) can run a title search on any property, anywhere in Canada. There are a few ways to do this:
- Do it yourself – you can go down to your local courthouse and do the search yourself for a relatively low fee. For Ottawa properties, you or your client could go down to the courthouse, and pull basic title information for around $10. This will provide you a list of all documents registered against the title of the property. If you see a mortgage charge, you can then request those extra documents for an extra fee.
- Hire your lawyer – any real estate lawyer will have access to local title information from their computers, if the information is available online. However, not all title information may be available in electronic format. For some areas, a title searcher will be hired, who will go to the courthouse and manually look through records to pull title information. Depending on how much your lawyer charges, this may or may not be an expensive method to use.
- Hire a third-party title searching company – over the last few years, many companies have begun offering title searching services online. However, that doesn’t mean you can view the information online yourself. Usually you can order a title search online, and they either manually or electronically pull the title information and send it to you. Basic title searches are fairly cheap, but a full title search can be $60 or more. Note that you do NOT need to live in the same city as the title search. So if you’re thinking about buying remote property, you can hire a company to check title for you.
It is unlikely that your client’s husband was able to register a mortgage on the property title without her knowledge, unless one of the following is true:
- Your client is not on title – If your client’s husband is the only one on the property title, then it would be easy and completely legal for him to add another mortgage without her knowledge. Her signature is not required.
- The property was financed many years ago– For many years now, lawyers have been required to check a person’s ID each time they come into their office to sign documentation, especially for a real estate transaction.In the past, if a lawyer knew his client, he would check their ID once, and then maybe keep a copy on file for every future transaction (this is how it worked for me when I got started investing). Now they must obtain a copy every time a transaction occurs. So your client’s husband would not be able to forge a signature, because the lawyer would require your client’s ID before completing the transaction.However, if your client’s husband added extra financing many years ago and the lawyer was flexible in having paperwork signed, there is a small chance it could happen.
- Power of Attorney – If your client signed a Power of Attorney document so her husband could do this on her behalf, then he could legally add any financing he wanted on the property. In much rarer situations, it is possible this could be done with a forged Power of Attorney.
The easiest way to confirm the situation is for your client to simply run a title search herself, or ask her lawyer to do it. That will show everything that is registered against the property, and prove once and for all whether or not any extra financing was done without her knowledge.
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