BC Real Property E-Filing

March 15, 2012

The main focus of this post will be land title e-filing in BC, kicking off an 8-week series available each Thursday. In my role as a consultant to Dye & Durham Corporation, I’ve seen how various clients are adapting to e-filing and the difficulties they face. At the risk of boring some of you, I’m going to start at the beginning by describing the phasing-in of mandatory e-filing. Future posts will highlight issues relating to technology, digital signatures, electronic document preparation, and survey plans.

Big changes are occurring in land title filing in British Columbia – e-filing. E-filing has been voluntary in BC for several years, but in 2011 the Director of Land Titles of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia (the “LTSA”) announced the phasing-in of mandatory e-filing. These requirements are detailed in the LTSA’s DR 06-11 “Director’s Requirements to File Land Title Forms Electronically” (copy available on Dye & Durham’s website). Since January 16, 2012, Form A Freehold Transfers of Fee Simple, Form B Mortgages, and blanket Form C Charges and Releases must be e-filed with limited exceptions. Although these requirements have now been in place for two months, there are still many people who have not started e-filing and there are others who will be affected by the next phase of requirements coming in May, 2012.

Starting May 7, 2012, you will be required to e-file claims of builders lien, other types of Form A Freehold Transfers (e.g. life estate, determinable fee), Form C Charges and Releases with plans, Form 17 applications (fee simple, charge, cancellation), Strata Property Act forms (except if strata corporation has 7 or fewer strata lots) and plans (except if requires approving officer approval), and other types of plans that do not require approving officer approval. If you don’t currently e-file, get set-up to e-file or make arrangements with a third party to handle this for you – well before May 7th. Basically, the e-filing process in BC requires that prescribed electronic forms be used, these forms are completed using Adobe Acrobat software, any attachments are scanned using a high-resolution scanner and, before an electronic form is e-filed, it is digitally signed by a BC professional (e.g. lawyer, notary or, in some circumstances, a land surveyor) who holds a valid Adobe digital certificate issued by Juricert.

I suggest that you read the “Phase 2 Exemptions” contained in DR 06-11 that will apply on May 7, 2012. Certain types of filings are exempt, such as a paper document executed by at least one party prior to May 7th or submitted as part of a package that includes a document or plan that is not required to be e-filed (e.g. a subdivision or other plan requiring approving officer approval), or a certificate of pending litigation, caveat or other specified filing that requires preliminary inspection by the LTSA. Certain types of applicants are exempt (e.g. member of the public or builders lien claimant submitting application in-person or by mail; strata corporation with 7 or fewer strata lots), and additional applicants are exempt temporarily (e.g. government entities, certain first nations, and public utilities, telecommunication and oil and gas companies) pending arrangements being put in place to enable such applicants to e-file.

No applicable exemption? You can make a written request to the registrar to exercise discretion to accept a paper document. Use the required form (see Schedule “A” to DR 06-11) specifying the reason why you cannot e-file the document, and submit it for filing with the originally signed paper document. If you are making the request because you are not set-up to e-file by May 7th, the registrar may exercise his discretion and allow it, but I expect there will be less empathy in the future for anyone who makes repeated requests for this reason.

Finally, keep in mind that preparing a document in the electronic form gives you flexibility as it can be filed either in paper form or electronically prior to May 7th. In contrast, a document prepared in paper form can only be filed in paper form and, on and after May 7th, you may need to request the registrar’s discretion to file it. If you are intending to submit a package for concurrent registration, ensure that all parties to the transaction have agreed on the format, including the land surveyor. Mixed-format packages should be avoided as they may require prior approval and special handling by the LTSA.

Next week – technology challenges when e-filing.

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