Stop title fraud before it starts, because your biggest asset shouldn’t be the one that worries you the most.
You wouldn’t let someone steal your personal possessions, yet that’s what could happen if you become victim to title fraud. Whatever you do, don’t forget to protect your property title.
Axess Law can help prevent sleepless nights by arranging title insurance for your new or refinanced home.
What is Mortgage Title Fraud?
Is title fraud a real thing? Title fraud happens when fraudsters use stolen identities or forged documents to assume a registered owner’s title, transferring it to their own name or someone else’s. They mortgage the property and once the mortgage funds are advanced, disappear.
Picture not being able to sell, mortgage, or lease your home because of a mortgage title fraud. Your title is your proof you and joint tenants — those who co-own or share a home with you — are the legal owners. That’s why lawyers do title searches when you buy property — to identify who owns it and ensure the transfer of title of property in Ontario on possession day.
Having to attend court to prove you’re the rightful owner of your property would be time consuming and exasperating. But that’s exactly what you would have to do if a fraudster has changed the title to make it appear your property belongs to them.
The remedy is so simple. A single title insurance premium protects your home from title fraud for the life of the mortgage. Most Ontario policies cost between $300 and $500. It’s a small investment in exchange for the assurance your investment is safe.
What Title Insurance Covers
Now we’ve answered the most frequently asked question, is home title fraud a real thing?, here’s what else you should know.
Title insurance goes beyond just fraud.
Delays getting into your new home, clerical errors at land registry offices, zoning quandaries and more can all be included. Anything that affects free and clear ownership of your home or land is insurable. Most mortgage lenders insist on it. Think of your home as their investment too.
Your policy takes effect the day you take possession and is valid as long as you own your home. Provided your home’s value doesn’t exceed the policy limit, you never have to renew. And if it does, additional insurance can be purchased.
Title insurance is optional. Axess Law highly recommends it to any Ontario buyer of residential or commercial real estate.
What Happens With Title Fraud
Fraudsters can trick you into giving up your home or commercial property by:
1. Offering second mortgages when you need help with debts.
Job loss and overborrowing have left some Toronto area and Ottawa homeowners in dire straits. While banks and credit unions can be generous by foregoing payments for up to six months, that debt still accumulates.
Once interest-only payments cease, any amount you deferred will be added to your mortgage principal. Your payments could go up, opening the door to a fraudulent mortgage deal.
Signing for private mortgages allows the lender to put their name on the title. You could be forced into mortgage default by an unscrupulous lender, who can use the title to sell or refinance your home.
- Keep credit card debt modest.
- Stick with lenders you know.
- Check references before using a second mortgages lawyer.
2. Remove a name from property title.
Fraudsters who assume your identity may convince lenders to remortgage your home or property, stealing it from you. Owners who have paid their home or business mortgages in full are most at risk.
Intercepting mail or email, phishing trips and phone scams that reveal personal information can give identity thieves all they need to convince lenders to refinance up to 80% of your home.
Clever scammers may even get a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or credit cards in your name, all attached to the equity in your home.
- Change passwords often and use anti-virus software to protect online transactions.
- Don’t give out personal information to phone callers.
- Lenders and realtors always verify who you are. If you have no Ontario ID, they may request a declaration of guarantor for proof of identity.
- Do a fact check if callers say you owe money to government agencies like the Canada Revenue Agency. They may try to intimidate you into paying “fines” with prepaid credit cards that can’t be traced.
3. Forged mortgage approvals.
When a mortgage deal seems too good to be true, it may be. You know your finances best, so if you are offered a mortgage loan that seems out of your ballpark, ask more questions.
Unscrupulous brokers may offer you a mortgage that is way beyond your ability to pay. When the payments become more than you can bear, you’ll have little choice but to list, sell, get a second job or take in renters.
Brokers who are paid for recruiting customers can forge details on mortgage applications. That may lead lenders to think you can afford more than your income will support.
- Talk to your lender to ensure you fully understand the mortgage amount and terms being offered.
- A simple check on the Internet can verify if the amount you qualify for is appropriate for your income and debts.
- Instead of borrowing a downpayment, use your RRSP to get a mortgage.
Flat Fee Legal Services for Every Budget
Title insurance is not a replacement for title searches — don’t let a lawyer tell you otherwise. While it can protect you, it doesn’t cover every risk.
Axess Law’s licensed real estate lawyers advise you on what to expect when you buy title insurance and add it to your home when they close property sales or refinance a mortgage through another lender.
Our affordable flat rate fees start at just $999.99 and up to buy Ontario property or $799.99 and up if you’re the seller. We have real estate lawyers near you in Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa who can communicate with your lender, register title to the property and arrange title insurance.
Axess Law closes deals on time, for a lot less than you would pay other legal services. Even if you just want to know how to transfer property title to family members in Ontario, give us a call.
Make Appointments at Your Convenience
Our virtual lawyers make remote online video calls, 7 days a week, day or evening anywhere in Ontario. We can meet you in person at any of Axess Law locations in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) or Ottawa.
We have onsite parking and easy transit access.