TORONTO, Sept. 8 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government will introduce legislation this fall that, if passed, will enhance the existing protection for Ontario families from real estate fraud.
"The people of this province work hard to make a house into a home. They deserve to know that their property is secure," said Minister of Government Services Gerry Phillips. "That's why our government will introduce new legislation that helps ensure that property owners do not lose their homes as a result of real estate fraud or become responsible for fraudulent mortgages."
If passed, the proposed legislation would ensure that ownership of a property cannot be lost as a result of the registration of a falsified mortgage, fraudulent sale or a counterfeit power of attorney. Instead, an innocent homeowner's title will be restored to them and the fraudulent document will be nullified.
The proposed legislation will also:
- Introduce new safeguards for suspending and revoking the accounts of fraudsters so that they cannot register documents, and
- Raise existing fines for real estate fraud related offences from $1,000 to $50,000.
"While individual cases are of concern to me and are upsetting, I can reassure homeowners that real estate fraud is limited in comparison to the more than two million real estate transactions that occur each year in this province," Phillips noted. "However, we will continue to build on today's proposals because even one case of fraud is too many."
Currently, homeowners in Ontario enjoy considerable protection from real estate fraud. The Land Titles Assurance Fund was created to compensate consumers for errors in the system and fraud. Consumers can also discuss with their lawyers and advisers alternative methods to protect themselves, including the merits of purchasing title insurance. Additionally, the electronic land registration system enhanced the security of the land registry by imposing increased identification requirements.
"The federal government also has a role to play," Phillips added. "We will work with the federal government to seek amendments to the Criminal Code to make real estate fraud a separate offence and to establish a national database of real estate fraud cases to properly combat the cross-border element of this crime." For more information or advice on how consumers can better protect themselves and their families, visit the ministry's website at http://www.mgs.gov.on.ca/