The Ontario government is considering permitting electronic signatures for real estate deals.
“It’s often the most important transaction that people are doing — (but) a lot of times they’re busy at work or they don’t live in the same city,” Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said Tuesday at Queen’s Park.
“So we want them to be able to sign a mortgage or a deed or the sale of a house or the buying of a house and make it easier for them,” Meilleur said in an interview.
“Of course the concern is how can we prevent fraud? So we’re consulting the public about it.”
Ontarians have until Dec. 31 to email the Ministry of the Attorney General at email@example.com or write a submission to the department at the 7th floor, 720 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 2S9.
Meilleur said the consultation will help determine what regulatory measures are needed to ensure the reliability and security of e-signatures so the Ontario Electronic Commerce Act can be amended accordingly.
Asked when in the New Year the changes would be in place, the attorney general said: “I don’t think it’s going to be a long timetable.”
The modernization would enable people to electronically sign paperwork and email it to their real estate agent, which would simplify transactions.
Currently, most land transfers must be done in person using paper.
In an era of expanding e-commerce, Meilleur said it just makes sense to update the laws.
But she cautioned that it is crucial to protect the integrity of real estate sales.
Real estate lawyers and other interested parties have asked that any electronic signature system have strict verification protocols; have an audit trail to determine who sent what when; be accessible to police to curb fraud; and have safeguards in place to prevent deletion.