Electronic Filing System
by Darcy Hammett
Today, land title documents are typically created on a personal computer, printed, executed and physically delivered to the land title office. The proposed Electronic Filing System (EFS), expected to be implemented in 2004, will allow land title documents to be submitted electronically, eliminating the need for physical delivery.
It is important to understand that the proposed scheme only contemplates the electronic submission of land transfer instruments to land title offices. It will not enable an external user to register a title or charge or make any entry in the title register. The title examination functions now performed by land title office staff will not be altered in any way.
Conceptually, land title documents will be created and signed in the same way they are today. When the firm responsible for submitting the forms to the land title office has in their possession either the originally signed paper copy or a copy of that copy, the lawyer or notary responsible applies their digital signature to the document. The act of applying a digital signature by a lawyer or notary certifies that an executed paper copy, or a copy of that copy, is in their possession. Delivery of the executed paper copy is also used as the authority to submit the electronic version to the land title office for registration. Once the digital signature is applied to the document, the person responsible for submitting the documents can then sign on to BC OnLine and submit these documents to the land title office. When received by the land title office the electronic version is deemed to be the original for all purposes. The Land Title Branch has worked closely with the Law Society in developing the vision for this project. The Law Society will act as the certification authority and will validate lawyers’ electronic signatures each time a document is submitted electronically to a land title office. Within minutes of receipt of documents at a land title office electronic front counter, the automated process will mark up the documents and advise the paralegal of the registration numbers of the documents submitted, land title fees collected and, if applicable, property transfer tax collected.
It is anticipated that land title fees will be collected using the existing BC OnLine draw down account and that Property Transfer Tax will be collected using a form of electronic funds transfer. The Land Title Branch is working closely with the Law Society in the development of the electronic funds transfer.
After markup, the electronic document is converted to image format and will then be examined by land title staff in the same way that it is today. If the electronically submitted document is defected, the defect notice will be delivered electronically. When the document is registered the automated system will send the applicant an e-mail notification of registration.
It will be possible to transmit applications anytime during the business hours of BC OnLine. Currently these hours are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will also be possible to request that a document be submitted on a day in the future. For example, it will be possible to specify that a document be held and submitted on the last day of the month.
Other services will be combined with the EFS. An activity advisory service will allow a user to receive, automatically, for a specified time period, an e-mail notice advising of any activity relating to a specific parcel. This can be used to be advised of any activity from the date of the initial search until final registration. There are numerous situations for which this service would be invaluable – eg, for a construction mortgage between advances to receive notice of claims of builders liens. It will also be possible to request that title search information be downloaded in computer readable format so that in-house and off-the-shelf legal software programs can use this information to pre-populate forms.
Key benefits of the Electronic Filing System
- Reduces the costs of doing business with the land title office;
- Provides the same level of service no matter where you live in British Columbia;
- Notification of application numbers within minutes of submitting documents; and
- Faster turn around times.
Darcy Hammett is the Director of Programs, Standards and Policy at the Land Title Branch. He is currently the Project Director and Business Architect for the development of the Land Title Branch electronic filing system.
This article was published in the April 2002 issue of BarTalk. © 2002 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.