Long Delays at Alberta Land Titles Slow Real Estate Transactions

Transferring ownership from one owner to another is taking much longer in Alberta than it used to.

According to the provincial government’s land titles website, the office is currently registering land titles received on February 4 and plans and survey documents received on March 2.

Lou Pesta, a Calgary real estate lawyer with Parlee McLaws, said the typical turnaround time over his 40-year career has been two to five days and up to two weeks during peak hours.

“One of the lawyers did some research online and found that we were taking a lot longer than some third world countries in terms of registration times right now, which frankly is embarrassing for a province like Alberta,” he told CBC News. Thursday.

Professionals in the real estate, legal and surveying industries say title registration delays have not yet derailed transactions, but they are delaying certain types of real estate transactions. They are also a looming problem for municipalities, which send in property tax bills this month.

Why are titles important?

A land title is a document that proves ownership of land.

Without it, the parties to real estate transactions are in limbo between the date of sale and the taking possession by the buyer, said Jim McKinnon, partner at AICRE Commercial in Edmonton.

Jim McKinnon, a partner at AICRE Commercial, says he now recommends property buyers purchase title insurance to mitigate delays at the Alberta land titles office. (Katie Parent/AICRE Commercial)

“It’s another hurdle or another thing in the way of a deal,” said McKinnon, who first noticed the title delays last summer and saw them increase over the fall. and winter.

Due to the delays, he now recommends that all buyers have title insurance.

Title insurance is a type of policy that can protect homeowners against title-related issues, including liens on a property, title fraud, and survey errors. It also allows money to trade hands before a land transfer is complete.

Another workaround is the Western Law Societies transfer protocol – an arrangement that allows mortgage funds and sale proceeds to flow before title is registered – but the protocol does not apply to commercial properties.

A problem for municipalities

Because cities don’t have data on ownership changes in recent months, property tax bills may not reach the right people when they’re mailed later this month.

“Homeowners need to track down tax bills to pay them on time in June, which could be a problem this year, with some people falling through the cracks and potentially penalized for late property tax payments” , said Pesta.

Some cities, including Cold Lake and Airdrie, advise landlords to submit new property information online.

“While delays are beyond our control, we are working on a variety of mitigations that will still allow new owners who may not yet show up on title to know their tax balance information as well as enroll in the monthly payment program through an approach tailored to these circumstances,” said Anton Szabo, director of policy and data quality at the City of Edmonton’s Assessment and Taxation Branch.

Szabo said the city encourages homeowners in this situation to contact 311.

Land surveyors also affected

The delays are also affecting the surveying industry, with a wait of at least two months for survey plans and document records.

“It slows down the process in terms of how we can turn title over to developers so they can turn title over to homebuilders, so homebuilders can build a house and turn it over to individuals for l ‘purchase,’ said John Byrne, a land surveyor at IBI Group.

Byrne, who is also president of the Association of Alberta Land Surveyors, said he and chief executive Brian Munday raised the issue with Service Alberta at a meeting in September.

He said the government said it had tried to rehire retired staff and had pledged to hire more people, but training new recruits was taking several months.

What is causing the delays?

Lindsay Milligan, press secretary for Service Alberta Minister Nate Glubish, said real estate transactions and packages submitted for registration have nearly doubled since April of last year.

She said the government had allocated $9.1 million in the last budget to address the backlog and that this money would mean that the staff in the land titles office would almost double.

“We are also making changes to review processes, reviewing technology solutions, and continuing to provide resources to help lawyers get to grips with the pending registration queue,” she said.

She said Service Alberta is working to implement solutions by the summer and expects to see the backlog go down after that.

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