Notice to the Profession
March 17, 2020

In light of the provincial health officer and minister of health orders and directives that are aimed at preventing the spread of the virus in BC, the Law Society is taking steps to support public health recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While our core operations will continue, we have implemented a work at home plan for employees commencing immediately and until further notice.

As of today, there will be no public access to the Law Society offices.

As we transition to work from home, we will remain available to assist you as best we can. You may contact Law Society departments and the Lawyers Indemnity Fund at the telephone numbers and email addresses provided here. Our response times may be slower than usual. We appreciate your patience.

If you have business with the Law Society, please use telephone, email or the Law Society member portal until further notice. Lawyers reporting claims to LIF should do so by emailing, and not by fax, courier or mail.

Practice advisors continue to be available to answer questions about practice and professional obligations. Contact information for practice advisors may be found on the About Practice Advice page on the Law Society website.

This is an unprecedented situation involving complex and rapid business decisions. We will continue to evaluate and respond to practice concerns as they arise and provide further guidance over the coming days.

We appreciate your patience as we continue to work and put new processes in place.

In the context of COVID-19, can a lawyer use a virtual means, such as video-conferencing or telephone, for client identification and verification?

There are two methods for verifying a client’s identity that do not require a face-to-face meeting with the client – the dual process method or using information in a client’s credit file. Lawyers should also consider whether they may be able to rely upon the previous verification by another person (for example, a real estate agent) where permitted under the Rules.

In unique circumstances where lawyers unable to avail themselves of any other verification method, the Law Society will take a reasonable approach in its compliance activity, if the lawyer verifies identification of a client located in Canada by using video-conference technology. Lawyers who verify a client’s identification using video conference technology should be able to demonstrate that they:

  • are reasonably satisfied that the government issued identification is valid and current;
  • were able to compare the image in the government issued identification with the client to be reasonably satisfied that it is the same person;
  • record (with the applicable date) the method used to verify the client’s identification;
  • treat the transaction as a high risk transaction and continue to monitor the business relationship as a high risk transaction; and
  • document the efforts that were made to verify the client’s identity in accordance with the existing rules and the reasons why they were unable to verify the client’s identity in accordance with the existing rules.

What is the LTSA’s guidance on execution requirements in light of COVID-19?

The Registrar of Land Titles is taking steps to support recommendations by the BC Public Health Officer to maintain social distance, particularly as it pertains to execution requirements under the Land Title Act.

Part 5 of the Land Title Act is prescriptive and sections 42 to 48 require an individual executing an instrument to appear before an officer. However, to maintain social distance and prevent COVID-19 transmission, individuals may be unwilling or unable to attend before an officer. In these circumstances, the Registrar of Land Titles will accept an Affidavit of Execution sworn under section 49 of the Land Title Act. For more details on section 49, including preferred forms of affidavit, please see paragraphs 5.88 to 5.101 of the Land Title Practice Manual.

Additionally, the Registrar will not take issue with instruments that are executed and witnessed contemporaneously in counterpart, where the transferor’s signature is on a different page from that of the officer. This allows a transferor to sign an execution copy of, for example, a Form A – Freehold Transfer, in the presence of, but at a safe distance from, the officer who would apply his/her signature and officer details on an identical execution copy. If the Registrar requires the applicant to produce the execution copy under section 168.57 of the Land Title Act, having the two signatures on separate pages will not trigger any action against the designate who certified the document.

Remote or videoconference witnessing is not permitted. The Supreme Court of BC has held that the words “appeared before” require a physical presence before the officer, and not an appearance by means of videoconferencing technology: First Canadian Title Insurance Company v. The Law Society of B.C., 2004 BCSC 197

The situation remains fluid. Please check the website regularly for updates.