Are BC home owners protected against title fraud?
The BC Land Title and Survey Authority (LTSA), the publicly accountable, statutory corporation responsible for delivering secure land titles, is aware of two recent attempts at title fraud involving swindlers impersonating registered owners who live abroad.
One attempt was successful and the property title was registered as owned by a fraudulent title holder.
In both cases of fraud, the property managers responsible for renting the homes took instructions from the fraudster from different phone numbers and email addresses than those authorized by the owners, and shared documents that enabled the fraudster to better impersonate the owners.
Fraud is rare
The LTSA emphasizes that such cases are extremely rare because strong protections are in place in this province.
The LTSA reports that over the past 20 years, the land title system processed more than 16 million transactions. During this time, two claimants were paid from the assurance funds because of title fraud, four because of mortgage fraud and one because of a combination title and mortgage fraud.
The LTSA is legally obligated to confirm ownership every time a property is sold, mortgaged, leased or statutory rights of way are created.
Additional protection is provided through an assurance fund that compensates owners deprived of their title either because of an LTSA administration error or identity theft/fraud.
If the owner is innocent of all fraud charges, the assurance fund will cover all court costs and legal fees. The fund exists to provide confidence in the land title system and ”make things whole” again.
Home owners can order a duplicate certificate of title for their own records, at a cost of approximately $50.
Title can’t be transferred without this document. While it provides protection, it can cause problems when a duplicate certificate of title is lost or misplaced.
LTSA is unaware of any cases in BC that required an innocent owner to pay off a fraudulently obtained mortgage on their property.
Typically, when a bank asks a home owner to pay for title insurance on a mortgage, that insurance protects the lending institution, not the home owner. However, separate insurance may be purchased that protects the owner’s equity in the property.