We frequently get asked if a party can sign their closing documents on a transaction electronically. Generally, the answer is “no”, with some exceptions.
On a sale of property requiring a transfer in the Land Title Office, the transferor’s signature must be completed in ink on paper and, in most cases, must be signed in the presence of a lawyer, notary public, or other authorized witness.
For a purchase transaction, if there is a mortgage being registered as part of the transaction, the mortgage typically needs to be signed in the same manner as a land transfer (i.e. in ink and, in most cases, must be signed in the presence of a lawyer, notary public, or other authorized witness). If no mortgage is being registered, and the purchase is being completed as a “cash” transaction, the property transfer form does still require an ink signature, although the remaining documents can be signed electronically using a program satisfactory to the acting lawyer/notary.
Remote signing became a process that was used fairly regularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been slowly disappearing. That process still required ink signatures, but would allow the client to sign documents while on a videoconference with the lawyer or notary who would then sign appropriate documents to evidence their witnessing of the transferor/transferee/mortgagor’s signatures for registration purposes. This helped enhance safety for clients and practitioners during the heat of the pandemic when meeting in person was not safe for COVID-19 related reasons. In our experience, this is much less common today than it was 18 months ago.
Another issue that complicates matters is the requirement for the lawyer/notary acting on behalf of the client to verify the identification of the party. This is, for the most part, best done in person with the lawyer/notary viewing and verifying the party’s government issued, photo ID. While there was some flexibility on identifying a party through a remote process during the COVID-19 pandemic, this too has become a lot less common and, for good reason. Lawyers and notaries often act in a gatekeeper role to assist in guarding against fraud administered through property transfers in the Land Title Office in British Columbia.
While different practitioners and different files may require or permit slightly different processes, it is important to be alive to these requirements on each transaction as they can impact the timing of completion and the need for the parties that are required to do so, physically needing to meet with an appropriate party.
Author: Una Kuzio
This information is general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information. This information should not be considered as legal advice. To learn more about your legal needs, please contact our office at (250)448-2637 or any of our lawyers practicing in the area of real estate at the following:
Una Kuzio: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Otterstrom: email@example.com