Practice Watch: E-filing and retention of documents — What to do?

by Barbara Buchanan, Practice Advisor

Some lawyers have asked what to do with the paper version of real estate documents now that the electronic versions are deemed by statute to be the originals once they are filed in the land title office.

Section 168.6(1) of the Land Title Act provides that an electronic instrument that has been received by the registrar under s. 153 is conclusively deemed to be the original of the instrument. For example, an electronically filed Form A received by the registrar is conclusively deemed to be the original, rather than the paper Form A with the actual signatures.

In most cases, you can return the paper originals to the client by enclosing them with the final reporting letter before closing out the client’s file. You should also keep a copy in the client’s file for the normal file retention period.

Lawyers who are concerned about retaining paper versions in the event of a requirement by the registrar to produce documents for inspection before registration pursuant to s. 168.51 of the Land Title and Survey Authority Act should note the LTSA’s practice bulletin of November 8, 2006 ( According to that bulletin, the LTSA may require an applicant to produce for inspection either the paper form with the original signatures (referred to in the legislation as an “executed true copy of the electronic instrument”) or a “copy of that true copy.”

The LTSA has advised that the pending application stage of the registration process is currently about six days from the time the documents are transmitted electronically to the land title office to the time of registration. Therefore, lawyers should be in a position to comply with inspection requests from the registrar before final registration of the electronic instrument.

A suggested minimum retention and disposition schedule for real estate files is set out below. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and that you must apply your own judgement as well.

For general information about client documents and retention guidelines, see Whose File is it Anyway? Who Owns Client File Documents When the Retainer Ends? and Closed Files – Retention and Disposition, both of which are in the Practice Support/Articles section of the Law Society’s website.

Suggested minimum retention and disposition schedule for real property files

Residential conveyance

10 years after State of Title Certificate is received

Commercial conveyance

10 years after closing (there may be transactions of such complexity that a longer retention period is advisable)

Lease/Sub-Lease/Licence to Occupy

Six years after lease has expired, including any renewal


Six years after Order Absolute, property sold, judgment satisfied or instruction received from client to stop proceedings


Six years after receiver is discharged or payment unless receiver has entered into another agreement

Option to Purchase/Right of First Refusal

Six years after the options expire or are exercised

Easement/Right-of-Way/Restrictive Covenant

10 years after registration

Review of title and opinion

Six years from giving an opinion, unless opinion leads to an action


Six years after expiry of mortgage term

Subdivision/Single plan strata development

Six years after completion of the sale of all the property

Phased strata development

Six years after completion of the sale of all of the property in the final phase

Real estate prospectus

Six years after sale of all property covered by prospectus

Building contract

Six years after substantial completion

Encroachment settlement

Six years after settlement