The pandemic altered many aspects of our lives and how we conduct real estate law was no exception.
Before March 2020, real estate law had been conducted (relatively) the same way for many decades. Paper, pens and handshakes were not on their way out of the industry anytime soon. To put it simply, to sell or purchase a home, you were required to leave your home. Fast forward two years and the reality of real estate law is quite different.
Here are three ways Covid has changed real estate law in Ontario:
1. Commissioning Change
The biggest change to come out of the pandemic for real estate law was legislative change that took place August 1st, 2020 with the enactment of O. Reg. 431/20 under the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.17 (O. Reg. 431/20: ADMINISTERING OATH OR DECLARATION REMOTELY (ontario.ca), which allows for Commissioners and Notaries to swear legal documents such as affidavits and declarations (which form part of closing documents in Ontario) remotely.
Docusign and other forms of electronic signature software has been used for quite awhile to sign Agreements of Purchase and Sale. What many people didn’t know is that electronic signatures did not commonly extend to the closing documents for the transaction. This is due to the Electronic Commerce Act that requires the parties to consent to the use of electronic signatures, which unless it was explicit in the Agreement, was hard to confirm nor could a real estate lawyer risk having their closing documentation rejected by the other lawyer because they did not have wet signatures and the other party did not consent to electronic signature.
However, recently the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) fixed this issue by inserting a new clause to the standard form Agreement of Purchase and Sale, paragraph 27 that states:
- ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES: The parties hereto consent and agree to the use of electronic signatures pursuant to the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c17 as amended from time to time with respect to this Agreement and any other documents respecting this transaction.
Electronic signatures are now used for the majority of closing documents removing the need for paper closing packets—we can complete everything that is needed for a transaction, digitally.
Another way that COVID pushed real estate law to adapt was in terms of transferring funds. The restrictions of in-person banking at the beginning of the pandemic helped normalize electronic sending of money.
With all of these developments comes drawbacks such as the increase of fraud. The growth of remote technology in real estate transactions has required real estate law offices to increase their security processes. With the move away from paper documentation and couriers to increased electronic methods, our awareness of fraud must also increase. Since remote closing practices are still new for many offices, we expect to continue to see new securities implemented to increase fraud protection. Further, we caution clients as well as all parties in the transaction to be aware of fraud indicators throughout the transaction (Red Flags for Fraud in Real Estate Transactions – Lawyer | Law Society of Ontario (lso.ca)).
2. The Choice Is Yours
With the introduction of contactless closing, a client’s pool of real estate lawyers to choose from has expanded significantly. Titlers Professional Corporation can now serve clients across Ontario, without geographical limitations.
Where once your choice of real estate lawyer was limited to a region due to the need to visit the office in person for paperwork, location of office is now a secondary thought. This allows for you, as the client, to really choose the right representation for you.
3. Time-Saving Logistics
Anyone who has gone through a real estate transaction, whether as buyer or seller, can attest to the fact that it is a time-consuming process. Both parties are required to have several meetings to successfully complete the transfer of ownership.
With the pandemic, came greater utilization of Zoom and other video meeting platforms. Though the implementation of virtual meetings was a necessity during the pandemic, they are an option Titlers Professional Corporation is proud to continue offering clients to better suit our clients’ busy schedules.
The increased use of lock boxes has also increased allowing for both parties of real estate transactions to have greater flexibility and more efficient exchanging of keys.
Titlers Real Estate Law
There is no doubt that the pandemic had a detrimental impact in many ways; however, we are proud that Titlers Professional Corporation, and Ontario real estate law as a whole, has adapted and modernized our practice to better serve clients into the future. To learn more about how our Port Perry law office is serving clients across Ontario with our Contactless Closing, click here.