E-filing ends panic of mortgage closing day

E-filing ends panic of mortgage closing day

Peter Wilson

Vancouver Sun

Thursday, April 01, 2004

For home buyers -- and sellers too -- the often heart-pounding closing-day legal runaround is nearing an end. Starting today, lawyers and notaries across British Columbia can file land-registry documents electronically.

What that will mean is that, eventually -- as law firms sign on to the service -- there will be no need for couriers to speed around the province, racing documents to land-titles office before closing time.

And there will be no more tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth as buyers and sellers worry that properties won't get registered and, in turn, banks won't be able to release mortgage money.

So far, only five law firms and one notary firm, all participants in a pilot program, have done this before in B.C. A few more such firms are expected to begin e-filing today.

Coincidentally, e-filing of documents with the provincial corporate registry, using similar methods through the BC OnLine system, began on Wednesday.

What the land registry e-filing change also means, say B.C. land-titles officials, is that no matter where you are in the province -- 100 Mile House or Vancouver or Port Hardy -- you can have the same service.

And a house sale in Port Hardy is exactly the example Darcy Hammett, director of registry programs standards and policy with the Land Title Branch, likes to use as an example of what can happen with paper filing.

"The documents end up on the lawyer/notary's desk," said Hammett. "Then they prepare that transfer on their PC. They print out a copy, and get everybody to execute.

"And then it's got to get into that courier bag and it's got to get to the land-titles office on that day. There are panics involved in doing that and a lot of express couriers and sometimes planes."

Home purchases and land deals have failed, said Hammett, simply because documents didn't get to a land-titles office by 3 p.m. on closing day.

Documents now available for e-filing include freehold transfer, mortgage, general instrument charge, general instrument release, declaration and electronic payment authorization. Before e-filing, the earliest lawyers and notaries could get registry numbers phoned back to them by the Land Titles Branch was at 11 a.m.

And that sometimes meant trouble, especially in cases where a string of properties was involved, said Hammett. The lawyers have to get the next deal going as soon as they get the registry number for the first property.

"You've got all these things pending and the trick is to get all the financials done and the cheques exchanged by the end of the banking day."

With e-filing -- using the Adobe PDF document format and the BC OnLine service jointly operated by MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates and the provincial government -- the first numbers can come back as early as 6 a.m.

This gives the lawyers and notaries plenty of time to get the process completed by the end of the day.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004