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Real Estate

Why do lawyers have to do a title search?

By Daniel Bernstein

You can’t close a deal without your lawyer doing a title search. How else will your lawyer know whether the property you want to buy still has an old mortgage on it that was never removed? What about a lien registered by the city for unpaid taxes or by the condominium corporation for unpaid monthly maintenance fees?

When you buy someone’s property, you become the owner of their title as well. So unpaid taxes and unpaid mortgages, for example, become your problem – unless your lawyer takes steps to ensure that they are paid out on closing. In order to discover these problems, your lawyer has to conduct a title search.

A title search can reveal the existence of agreements with the municipality dealing with building restrictions governing, for example, the size of fences, rules regarding landscaping, whether a satellite dish can be placed in the backyard or rules about finishing basements.

Title searches can also disclose rights-of-way in favour of utility companies or next door neighbours. A title search can reveal the existence of a mutual driveway or sidewalk. A buyer may be in for a big surprise when a title search reveals a hydro easement in the backyard on the same space that the buyer intended on building his swimming pool.

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