10 Things You Must Know About E-Filing Survey Plans in BC

April 12, 2012

Call me old-fashioned, but I like getting a big roll of mylars and paper prints. I like unrolling them and spreading them out – I don’t even mind the smell.

Well, times are changing. Surveyors have been preparing plans in electronic form for some time, but starting May 7, 2012, e-filing is mandatory for a wide variety of plans including supporting plans for Form C Charges and Releases, strata plans and amendments, all statutory right of way plans, and most reference and explanatory plans, with limited exceptions. Any plan requiring approving officer approval, (e.g. subdivision plan, phased strata or bare land strata) has not yet been mandated for e-filing, so you will still be able to file a subdivision plan, and related documents and plans, in paper form. The requirements for e-filing are set out in the LTSA’s DR 06-11 “Director’s Requirements to File Land Title Forms Electronically” including the applicable exemptions.

There are a number of issues that are arising with electronic plan submissions and the following highlights things you should be aware of and look for:

  1. General Survey Rules and Table of Concordance. Generally, the rules governing the preparation of plans by surveyors, consent and approval by third parties, and examination and approval of plans by the LTSA have not changed. Surveyors still follow the General Survey Rules maintained by the Survey General Division, but these Rules have been supplemented by a “Table of Concordance” that provides detailed guidance for preparing electronic plans.
  2. Coordination and Communication. I think it’s more important than ever that there be coordination and communication between the client, surveyor and lawyer(s). For example, all parties must know what format is being used – paper or electronic – as the LTSA is not set up to handle mixed-format submissions. If an electronic plan is prepared by the surveyor, but the lawyer is preparing paper documents (perhaps intending to rely on an e-filing exemption because the plan is not mandated for e-filing), then this will cause last-minute problems affecting filing and may require the plan or documents to be re-done. All parties should know who is e-filing the plan and when. If the plan is e-filed by the surveyor before it has been approved by all parties and amendments are required, these amendments may require a complete withdrawal and the plan number will not be preserved potentially affecting other documents.
  3. E-Filing Plans Is Not Just Pushing A Key On Your Computer. I’ve seen a number of people who are attempting to e-file plans and they have never filed a paper plan and seem to know little or nothing about survey plans or the relevant law. I don’t know if this is arising because people think that it is simple and you simply push a computer key to e-file survey plans, or they’re already e-filing documents and think they should be able to e-file anything. As with any land title document, it can look deceptively simple, but there is often a lot of complexity involved and knowledge required to do it properly. If you do not have experience with plans, seek appropriate assistance and start small and simple, perhaps filing an explanatory plan as a supporting document to a Form C Charge.
  4. Prior Plan Experience Is An Asset, But You Must Know the E-Filing Forms and Process. There are also people who have experience filing paper plans, but do not know the e-filing forms and process. E-filing a plan requires, at minimum, 2 electronic forms – “Application to Deposit Plan at Land Title Office” form and the “Survey Plan Certification” form (with electronic plan attached). These forms contain a lot of information and some of it would previously have shown on a paper plan, like the surveyor certification and required signature blocks and approvals. Each form must be digitally signed before it is e-filed. You must complete and save the electronic forms properly or they can be corrupted. If you receive the Survey Plan Certification form (with plan) from the surveyor by e-mail, do not open it and then save it – save it from the closed position.
  5. Plan Numbers are Pre-Assigned. In order for electronic forms to be properly completed, all required fields must be complete. You do not leave blank lines for the insertion of a plan number because electronic plan numbers are pre-assigned to the surveyor, before the plan is prepared and filed. Do not assume that the plan has already been e-filed simply because it has a plan number.
  6. Application Form. This is a multi-purpose electronic form and the drop-down menu in Item 3 shows the types of plans that can be e-filed. This form is not typically prepared by the surveyor and anyone preparing it must be aware that it can differ substantially from the paper application form, depending on the type of plan. For all plans, all parts of Item 3 must be completed. The plan number and control number come from the Survey Plan Certification form. The number of lots will depend on the type of plan and would typically be “0” for an explanatory plan, for example. If the type of plan requires signature blocks, those signature blocks must be included in the application form. One of the benefits of the electronic plan application form is that you can obtain the required signatures concurrently, in counterparts, and you do not need to ship the physical plan around to get it signed. However, you must have written signatures on paper copies of the application form before you can complete the electronic application form and apply the digital signature. Anyone applying a digital signature to an application form should review section 168.732 of the Land Title Act and the requirement that the subscriber not apply a digital signature unless it has been signed and witnessed, and contains the required approval, endorsements, statements, etc., as required by the Land Title Act.
  7. Survey Plan Certification Form. This form is prepared by the surveyor, must have the electronic plan attached and be digitally signed by the surveyor before it can be e-filed. It contains the pre-assigned plan number and the surveyor’s certification. When it is digitally signed, a unique control number will be generated and appear on the right-hand side of Item 2. This unique control number relates solely to the version of the plan attached, so if prior versions of the plan have been circulated for review, ensure that the approved version is attached to this form, and that a copy of the approved version is attached as a schedule to any related electronic document, like a Form C Charge.
  8. Supporting Documents Filed with Declaration. Depending on the type of application, there may be consents/approvals/orders that are required to be filed concurrently with a plan as a “supporting document”, such as a Minister’s Order or Surveyor General’s Order. A supporting document must be attached to an electronic Declaration form and submitted immediately after the application form, before the Survey Plan Certification form. Item 5 of the application form should be completed.
  9. Strata. For a strata plan, the Strata Property Act Form S and Form U1/U2 information must be completed by the surveyor in Item 3 of the Survey Plan Certification form.  Any other Strata Property Act forms that are required to be filed with the plan (e.g. Forms V, W, X, or Y) are e-filed by attaching an image of the originally signed form to an electronic “Strata Property Act Filing” form. Each form must be attached to a separate Declaration. If the strata plan is a phased strata plan, the Strata Property Act Form P is e-filed by attaching an image of the originally signed form to an electronic “Strata Property Act Filing” form.
  10. Plan Alterations. Before the plan is e-filed, the surveyor is free to make changes and the plan number will be preserved. Once the Survey Plan Certification form is digitally signed, a unique control number is generated for the attached version of the electronic plan. If changes are required after certification, but before e-filing, the surveyor can make the changes to the plan, prepare a new Survey Plan Certification form, and digitally sign the form generating a new unique control number for that version of the plan.  Once a plan has been e-filed, it cannot be withdrawn, corrected and re-submitted with the same plan number, as would be done with a paper plan, and limited alterations are permitted while preserving the same plan number. A filed electronic plan is altered by filing a new Survey Plan Certification form with Item 4 completed with the particulars of the alteration. The LTSA may allow the surveyor to deal with a defect by letter, but may require that the letter be e-filed by attaching it as a supporting document to an electronic Declaration.

Next week – managing package submissions.

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