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Consumers in British Columbia should be aware of recent media reports of fraudulent real estate transactions in Ontario, where several properties were listed for sale and sold without the owners’ knowledge. The land title fraud in Ontario follows two similar instances in B.C. in recent years. One of these attempts was identified before the property sold. However, in the other case, the title was transferred fraudulently. Although these types of events have been extremely rare in B.C., there are some precautions that can be taken to avoid this type of scam.
Real estate licensees and mortgage brokers are governed under legislation which requires, among other things, that they act solely in their clients’ best interests. BCFSA’s real estate search can confirm if the person you are considering working with is properly licensed.
Real estate licensees can help prevent this type of fraud by rigorously applying know-your-client requirements, which include collecting verifiable client information and government-issued identification, as well as meeting in-person and video conferencing with clients. Licensees are also expected to verify the client they are working with has the authority to sell the property.
Here are several other measures that British Columbians can take to protect themselves from real estate fraud and keep their properties from falling afoul of this type of activity.
- When working with a real estate licensee to buy or sell a home, it’s a good practice to get to know them personally and hold in-person meetings;
- Inquire about purchasing title insurance, which is protection against the financial consequences of a title defect in your property;
- If you are a landlord and renting out your property, look at your utility bills frequently and inquire about any changes, late bills, or anything that looks suspicious;
- Check your mortgage payments regularly and monitor for changes;
- Explore the option of carrying a line of credit on your mortgage, even if it’s paid off, so a financial institution would be involved if someone tries to fraudulently mortgage or sell your home;
- Shred your mail to protect confidential information from easily ending up in someone else’s hands;
- Reach out to your financial institution to understand the controls that are in place for protecting your identity, mortgage, and property title, and inquire about other financial and insurance options which could help protect you from title fraud;
- Land title records in B.C. are public – you can search land title records with the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC. Search Land Title Records and Learn About Title Security in BC
- An Assurance Fund compensates property owners in the very unlikely case that they are financially affected by a title registration error or become the innocent victim of title fraud. Title fraud is exceedingly rare in British Columbia.
If you’re concerned about anything that appears out of place, contact your financial institution, or consider contacting the police.
BC Financial Services Authority (“BCFSA”) is a Crown regulatory agency of the Government of British Columbia. BCFSA oversees the financial services sector which includes pension plans, mortgage brokers, real estate services, real estate development marketing, and financial institutions (credit unions and insurance and trust companies). BCFSA also administers the Credit Union Deposit Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (“CUDIC”).