Land Title Office offers online filing beginning April 1
The moment of truth - Conveyancer Rosalyn Gutierrez (left) and lawyer Peter DeMeo (centre) of the law firm Mullin DeMeo in Victoria complete the first-ever electronic filing in the Land Title Office by submitting a mortgage online on January 7. Darcy Hammett, Director of Operations and Systems for the Land Title Branch, and Denis Thomas, Technical Architect (right) savour this moment of success in the pilot phase of the e-filing project.
The documents for e-filing
As of April 1, 2004 the Land Title Office will accept electronic filings from BC lawyers, notaries and land title agents of these key documents in land transfers:
- Form A (Freehold Transfer)
- Form B (Mortgage)
- Form C (Charge)
- Form C (Release)
- Property Transfer Tax Electronic Payment Authorization
- Property Transfer Tax Return
The electronic filing of documents is optional, not mandatory.
Computer system requirements
The Land Title Office form templates are in portable document format (PDF), featuring data fields that can be completed electronically using Adobe Acrobat 6.0. For a test version of the forms, visit the electronic filing system project website at srmwww.gov.bc.ca/landtitle/EFS_web_site/index.htm. The final version of the forms will be available for downloading from the BC Online website (www.bconline.com) beginning April 1.
Most lawyers will already be familiar with viewing PDF documents on the internet with Adobe Acrobat Reader (free software available for download from the Adobe website). Fewer may have used the full version of the Acrobat software, which allows for the creation and completion of PDF documents, including forms.
BC lawyers and their conveyancing staff will need to use version 6.0 of Adobe Acrobat (standard or professional) to complete the forms. The software is available for purchase from software retailers or can be ordered online from BC Online or Adobe (www.adobe.com/acrofamily/main.html).
To begin e-filing, law firms should ensure their practices feature the following:
- Windows operating system, 98SE or higher or Mac OS
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 web browser
- An internet connection (minimum 56K dial-up; high-speed cable or ADSL is recommended)
- a BC OnLine account, with access to land title applications
- Adobe Acrobat 6.0
- a Juricert-authenticated Adobe Acrobat Signing Certificate
- a set of computer folders configured for LTO electronic filing system files
- electronic filing system templates (which can be downloaded to the firm's computer system via BC Online beginning April 1)
- set-up for electronic funds transfer (for payment of the Property Transfer Tax)
Register with Juricert to obtain digital certificate
A lawyer who wishes to make electronic filings in the Land Title Office must first register with, and obtain an Adobe Acrobat Signing Certificate from Juricert, a company owned by the Law Society. The Law Society is the certification authority for professionals for the purpose of e-filing under the Land Title Act.
Authorize electronic funds transfer for payment of PTT
If a lawyer chooses to make an electronic filing of documents, any Property Transfer Tax payable in the transaction must be paid by electronic funds transfer. Law Society Rule 3-56 was recently revised to allow lawyers to authorize electronic withdrawals of funds from their trust accounts for this purpose.
If a law firm's trust account requires the signature of a non-lawyer financial officer on cheques, both the signatory lawyer and the financial officer must register with Juricert and obtain digital certificates. This is necessary to allow them to digitally sign and file a Property Transfer Tax Electronic Payment Authorization form. This form authorizes the Land Title Branch to draw payments for Property Transfer Tax from designated law firm banking accounts at the time the firm submits documents for e-filing
Basic components of a conveyance under e-filing
An underlying principle of the new e-filing system is that it will not mandate fundamental changes to conveyancing practice.
In accordance with practice in BC, it is therefore expected that the purchaser's lawyer, with the assistance of his or her staff, will continue to prepare the transfer package in residential conveyances under e-filing. Rather than creating the Form A Transfer (and other forms) in word processing software, however, the purchaser's lawyer and staff will do so using Adobe Acrobat forms, by filling out pre-determined fields.
Each person within a firm who drafts a land title form for electronic filing, and each lawyer who signs the form as officer, will need access to Adobe Acrobat software.
Assuming conveyancing staff have created a transfer form in Adobe Acrobat, the lawyer will review that form, along with all other documents in the package, with the client. The lawyer's staff will forward the transfer package, with statement of adjustments, to the vendor's lawyer by courier, by fax or by email (as scanned document attachments). The vendor's lawyer will witness execution of a paper copy of the transfer by the vendor and return the document to the purchaser's lawyer by courier, by fax or by email (as a scanned document attachment). In practice, the purchaser's lawyer will need a hard copy of this signed transfer for his or her files. No hard copies will be used in electronic submissions to the Land Title Office.
As is now the case, the purchaser's lawyer must review all documents prior to submission to the LTO. Under e-filing, the lawyer will digitally sign (using his or her digital certificate from Juricert) and lock each document prior to submission, typically the Form A transfer, Form B mortgage and Property Transfer Tax return.
The actual submission of the documents can be carried out by the lawyer's staff or third parties such as registration agents. They will log into BC Online and upload the signed documents for submission. The Land Title Office system is expected to feature built-in checks on the submission, to ensure that the correct form version is used and that documents are not missing and are in the right order.
The Land Title Branch will also check a lawyer's digital certificate to verify the practising status of that lawyer through current Law Society data provided to the Land Title Branch by Juricert.
New practice resources
Land Title Electronic Filing System Reference Manual
The Land Title Branch is releasing mid-March a comprehensive Land Title Electronic Filing System Reference Manual, which provides step-by-step instruction on preparing forms and carrying out electronic filing. The Manual will be available at no cost on the Land Titles Branch electronic filing system project site at srmwww.gov.bc.ca/landtitle/EFS_web_site/index.htm.
The Manual contains information on the following:
- Getting started: system requirements, installing Adobe Acrobat 6.0, obtaining a digital certificate, setting up computer folders for electronic filing, downloading form templates and authorizing PTT electronic payments;
- Filling out forms: opening and saving forms, entering data, locking forms, re-using data in forms and altering electronic filing system forms;
- Using electronic filing: navigating the electronic filing system, submitting document packages, submitting corrective declarations and managing the submission queue;
- Digital signatures: obtaining a digital signature, security issues and applying a digital signature;
- Electronic funds transfer: authorizing electronic payments for Property Transfer Tax and filing a PTT return.
Land Title Transfer Forms Guidebook
The Continuing Legal Education Society of BC recently published the Land Title Transfer Forms Guidebook, second edition (2004), which includes select statutory provisions on e-filing, section-by-section instruction on completion of each electronic form and annotated commentary.
The Forms Guidebook is available for purchase from CLE: visit www.cle.bc.ca or call customer service at 604 893-2121 or toll-free in Canada at 1-800-663-0437.