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What is a Title Search

A title search is a must before making any real estate purchase. Title searches ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property, and that there are no other encumbrances (such as liens, mortgages etc.) or property line issues that could prevent the buyer from taking full possession.

Who Orders a Property Title Search

In today’s busy world, law firms should use the services of a qualified freelance title searcher to do a title search rather than using in house staff. The legal secretaries in a law firm are very busy and by hiring an experienced title searcher, it allows for a more efficient office.
A title searcher is not distracted by a myriad of other jobs and can concentrate on the task at hand of title searching.
Besides a lawfirm, many other businesses may order property information. Businesses such as Banks, Financial institutions, Land Surveyors, Appraisers, Real Estate agents and investors, Insurance companies, Municipalitites, Paralegals, Private Investigators and others.

Private individuals may also want to check on their property title to....

  • Confirm their ownership and outstanding encumbrances, such as mortgages, liens etc.  
  • Confirm that there has been no fraudulent activity  of un solicited mortgaes registered on their property without their knowledge. 
Not all title searchers will do work for the general public.

 What Is a Property Title Search?

Title searching is the process of conducting a property title search. A property title search is a search conducted to look for outstanding encumbrances and title deficiencies as well as to confirm the owners name and state of land tenure, so that when a purchaser buys a property, the encumbrances and deficiencies are removed from title and the purchaser would have clear title. There are many things that a title searcher has to look for and to also be aware of laws affecting the search procedure, particularly for planning act issues.
A title searcher has the experience and know how to conduct a proper
title search and also has access to documents that are not available on line.

The following title search guidelines are based on Ontario standards (not a complete list of criteria.) If title searchers from other the provinces would like to comment on their provincial searching methods we would love to hear from you.

A title search is conducted at the local registry office and reveals the following… (some searches can or can’t be conducted remotely on line)

A Full Title Search

  • The current owners name.
  • How title is held (Joint Tenants, Tenants in common, Fee simple…..)
  • The Legal description
  • Property Identifier Number (PIN) (PID or LINC in some provinces) if assigned
  • Is the property still in Registry, LTCQ (land titles conversion qualified), Absolute Title or Absolute Title Plus
  • What easements are on title , if any, the property is subject to and/or together with, where the physical location of the easement is and the parties. 
  • The dominant tenement is the parcel of land which has the benefit of the easement, while the servient tenement is the parcel over or through which the easement runs.
    A title searcher will also look for planning act consent if it is a private easement.
    If the property is still in the registry system, has the easement expired? (registered over 40 years?) Any notice of claim registered? The size of the easement is also important. If the easement is too large does it interfere with any building locations, existing or future?
    A number of properties now have link housing with no access to the rear yard for lawn cutting and maintenance except through an easement created for you and adjoining neighbours for access through the back yards. There could also be eave trough overhang and normal maintenance agreements because of the no side yard lines.
  • What bylaws are registered? (only the most common are noted)

    • Part lot control bylaws prohibit the division of property without first obtaining planning act consent or by having a Part lot exemption bylaw in place, or unless you are the whole of a lot on a registered plan of subdivision.
    • Part lot exemption bylaws which allow the division of property without planning act consent, subject to guidelines and usually within a certain timeframe.
    • Bylaws designating a property as being of historical significance.
  • Subdivision agreements are on title. Are they Residential, Development, or Industrial
  • What mortgages/charges the property is subject to
  • Is the property subject to any liens?
    • Housing liens,
    • Notices put on (by Revenue Canada) regarding income tax arrears
    • Property tax arrears notices
    • Environmental liens,
    • Notice of security (usually put on by Union Energy for furnace, water heater debt contracts, etc.,
    • Construction liens and related documents
  • If the property is rented, then are there any leases on title?
  • Are there any Restrictions/ covenants on title
  • Are there any notices on title? For example….noise warnings due to busy roads, airports or proximity to noisy industrial areas, Odour warnings for waste management systems or farming operations?
  • Are there any surveys/ sketches registered on title. A reference plan? Hopefully one would have a building location survey.
  • For a part lot search are there any planning act issues? Are there any overlaps or gaps in property descriptions? Depending on the state of land tenure how far back do you check for planning act issues? 40 years? From expiry of part lot exemption bylaw? from LTCQ date (land titles conversion date), or if you’ve had planning act consent, were all the dates right, etc, validating the consent and if so then no planning act search needs to be done?
    A title searcher also knows how to plot a metes and bounds description. Some descriptions can be very lengthy and difficult.
    If a part lot search was done, the searcher should also list current adjoining owners with a colour coded sketch showing the subject property in relation to the adjoining owners.
  • Another issue for a title searcher, is to determine what kind of plan of subdivision, if applicable, that the property is in. A registered plan of subdivision with planning act consent? A municipal compiled plan or registrar’s compiled plan? Both of the 2 latter plans would normally require adjoining land searches be done on the subject property.

****After all the searching is done, a good title searcher will attach a summary report recap sheet listing all the deficiencies found on title. They may also upon your request also do a search of executions or just automatically do them as a part of their normal searching methods.

A Sub Search usually is done to reveal only the following….

  • The current owners name.
  • The Legal description
  • Property Identifier Number (PIN) (PID or LINC in some provinces) if assigned
  • Outstanding encumbrances such as mortgages/charges/liens

An Environmental Title Search which is done to check previous owners, lessees and anyone who might have had access to the property via easements for possible environmental issues,
reveals the following… back to your designated time frame

  • A chain of title (hopefully typed or hand written)
  • A list of leases (expired and current)
  • A list of easements (expired and current)
  • Any environmental liens

Please note

that because the Province of Ontario has purged most of the documents and all of the old abstract books from the local registries, that a lot of this information is only available to the title searcher, by researching micro film documents. These searches are more labour and time exhaustive and usually cost more.

Historical Title Searches (for genealogy purposes)
These searches would only have a chain of title going back to a designated time frame.
Once again usually only on micro film.

Please refer to our industry related links for each provinces list of

  • Provincial service sites
  • Provincial Court houses with local links
  • Provincial Land Surveyors and local links
  • List of Canadian Lawyers
  • Municipal office links