Ontario is recognised as the most progressive e-Conveyancing solution currently in operation and is widely acknowledged as a reference source for new e-conveyancing solutions in other jurisdictions. The Ontario solution was developed initially in the 1990’s by the Ontario Government and subsequently took the form of a public private partnership (PPP). The Ontario solution is the closest solution to an “end-to-end” e-conveyancing solution that is currently in existence with functional modules such as: property registration, solicitor communication facilities, online searches, online mapping functions and dealings with financial institutions.
Legislative changes were required - Land Titles Act (LTA) and the Certification of Titles Act (CTA) - in order to create an environment suitable for an e-conveyancing, e-commerce and e-communication.
4.1.1 Key Drivers and Scope of the Solution
Government drove it, with a keen desire to integrate related services such as the courts, revenue and tax services. Registry systems were integrated to mapping and titles databases and all manual processes were automated. It was implemented as a Public/Private/Partnership (PPP) with Teranet being the private partner and developer of the value-added services.
4.1.2 The system as it operates
Depending on who is accessing the system, Teranet has a number of solutions for bankers, attorneys, the real estate industry and others. Of these I will highlight a few of the aspects offered.
Terraview – e-reg capability:Documents are created, modified, submitted, registered and maintained in electronic form using Teraview software. As an example the basic process for opening a transfer is as follows (for more information see the Teraview_Training_System_Guide.pdf ):
- A docket with the name and other details of each client is opened (whether it be a vendor or a purchaser).
- Next, one opens a tree structure showing the various causes of action such as Transfers, Charges, Discharges, Applications and Cautions.
- Within the tree one then captures the relevant data of the properties, transferor and transferee details etc.
- Documents can be partially created and saved within the system and messages can be sent to for example a Representative of the Purchaser to allow them to access this document and complete it on behalf of their client.
- On the transferee side a similar process occurs with the Representative for the Seller searching for writs, completing Planning Act Statements and the Land Tax requirements from which an assessment will be generated.
- The documents are then signed using encrypted digital signatures on behalf of the purchaser and vendors from within the programme by their attorneys who have unique password phrases.
- Once signed a document is submitted to the Land Registry Office for registration using the various dialogue boxes. If successful they are given a unique registration number by the POLARIS database.
- The software has a number of administrative features (Case Management and Accounting Systems) which allow attorneys to run various reports detailing the fees incurred for each docket and account, and to increase the funds in their Deposit Accounts online.
- When generating Charge/Mortgage bond documents, the fields are pre-populated with POLARIS database data and the documents are signed and registered in the same way as seen above.
Polaris: the Province of the Ontario Land Registration Information System (POLARIS) database, consists of the three following databases:
1. The Title Index Database (which replaces the paper abstract indexes and parcel registers).
2. The Property Index Database (which provides a visual index map of over six million properties).
3. The Image Database (which contains images of active instruments in the Title Index Database as well as plans).
The POLARIS database is a transaction-based system and is updated as new documents are registered, processed by the Land Registry or amended, as is the Image database.
Depending on one's searching needs Teraview software, GeoWarehouse Online Service and the BAR-eX website provide remote access to the POLARIS database and streamline the process of searching title into one manageable, automated system that uses a subscriber's office computer.
Bar-eX: A value-added tool provides the legal community with a gateway to a broad range of legal practice tools and resources and is integrated with the Law Society which provides validation of the legal users.
Purview risk management service:(RMS), a web-based automated valuation and fraud detection service, offers powerful resources and applications designed for Canadian financial institutions, mortgage lenders, property, title or mortgage insurers and real estate portfolio managers. Purview RMS' unique tools allow users to assess risk by detecting potential fraud patterns.
eFinance: All interactions with financial institutions throughout the conveyancing process are standardised and facilitated online through the system.
eTax: The solution offers a facility to pay all relevant taxes due online through the system as it is integrated with the revenue authorities.
4.1.3 Lessons and implications drawn by the Report at page 91
The appropriate financing for the development must take a long term view
The key lesson from the Ontario development surrounds the area of financing. Venture capital is not appropriate for financing a project like an e-Conveyancing solution, as the period before a return on investment is realised is too long for most venture capitalists. A public private partnership with a well-established and well-financed private company is an excellent way to ensure that development finance is available. The private partner must also realise that a high return on investment is possible but only after a period of time in excess of five to fifteen years.
Getting continued stakeholder buy-in through engagement and equity participation is vital
Early participation of stakeholders is essential to get stakeholder buy-in and to provide momentum for the development of the system. The Canadian experience suggests financial institutions form a good partner at an early stage of development. Similarly, attorneys, the Courts, local authorities and Revenue services need to be early participants in the development of the system.
The Ontario solution grew due to strong stakeholder buy-in and participation and this is due to the governance arrangements that gave each stakeholder a share in the particular module with which they are mainly associated. A key development for getting the legal profession to participate in the system would be to make them shareholders in any e-Contract module similar to the Law Society in Ontario.
Simplifying processes is an essential first step
The Ontario solution demonstrated that the key first step in terms of a roadmap towards the deployment of an e-Conveyancing solution is to simplify processes and standardise documents. Similarly, resolving mapping issues and in the Ontario case standardising mapping and resurveying the land mass are also crucial steps along the way to deployment of any new system.
4.1.4 Other points
The system enhances security, improves the accuracy and integrity of the database and has an electronic audit trail identifying transaction activity leading back to the user to further protect the system. Currently, registration volumes are in excess of 2 million per year. As of April 2008, over 92 percent of registrations are being received electronically.