Title Insurance Companies Report 100x increase in Title Frauds
DO YOU HAVE TITLE INSURANCE COVERAGE TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
Title insurance is a type of insurance that protects homeowners and lenders against financial losses resulting from defects in a property’s title or ownership. These defects can include unpaid taxes, liens, judgments, and other encumbrances that could prevent the buyer from taking full ownership of the property. Title insurance policies typically cover the cost of defending against legal challenges to the title and reimbursing the policyholder for any financial losses they suffer due to defects in the title.
Title fraud is a type of real estate fraud where a person fraudulently transfers the ownership of a property to themselves or another party without the knowledge or consent of the true owner. This can happen when a fraudster obtains false identification documents in the name of the true owner, forges their signature on legal documents, and registers the property in their name.
Title insurance can provide some protection against title fraud, but it’s important to understand what is covered, what Is not covered and the coverage amounts. Most policies only cover percentage of the increase in value. This is problematic given the large increases in property values over the years. Therefore, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of your title insurance policy and consider additional coverage if necessary.
This is especially important given that title insurance companies are reporting significant increases in title and mortgage fraud.
In summary, title insurance is an important protection for homeowners and lenders to safeguard against defects in a property’s title. It’s recommended to evaluate your real estate holdings to ensure you have title insurance in place and to confirm the coverage amount. Additionally, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks of title fraud and to review your policy to ensure you have appropriate coverage in case of such an event.
Have you filed your Underused Housing Tax Return or Exemption?
The Underused Housing Tax (UHT) has become law in Canada, and it is essential for residential property owners to familiarize themselves with it. The UHT is designed to tax vacant or underused residential properties owned by individuals who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. However, legal titleholders of residential real estate in Canada, including Canadian individuals, corporations, partners, and trustees, must also file a UHT return by May 1, 2023.
It is crucial to be aware of the UHT because failure to file a UHT return on time, even if no tax is owing, can result in steep penalties, starting at $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for corporations. The penalty is applied per return, which covers one property for one taxpayer, meaning that penalties can quickly accumulate. For example, if a Canadian corporation holds five residential properties, it would owe $50,000 in penalties, while two partners of a partnership holding two residential properties would owe $20,000 in penalties.
If you fall under any of the following situations, you must file a UHT return to avoid penalties:
a. Your corporation owns a residential property in Canada, regardless of its usage.
b. You are a partner in a partnership that owns a property in Canada with a residence, including farm partnerships, residential rental partnerships, and short-term rental business partnerships.
c. You are a trustee of a trust that owns a property in Canada with a residence, including informal trust arrangements.
d. You are not a citizen or permanent resident of Canada and own a residential property in Canada.
In summary, very few taxpayers are excluded from filing a UHT return, including those who did not own residential property on December 31, 2022, Canadian citizens or permanent residents who personally owned residential property as an individual or co-owner, and registered charities, listed government bodies, investment trusts, or public corporations. Almost all other individuals, private corporations, partners, and trustees must file a separate UHT return for each residential property owned, regardless of whether the tax applies. Responsibility for filing the UHT return lies with those identified on title, and a separate UHT return is required for each residential property owned on December 31 and for each owner.
We would be pleased to assist navigate you through the process. You can also speak with your accountant.
New Changes to Ontario Succession Law
Ontario recently made significant changes to its succession laws concerning wills, separated and married couples, and surviving spouses. Under the new laws, separated spouses will no longer inherit from their former partner’s estate, provided the couple was separated on or after January 1, 2022. Furthermore, marriages on or after the same date will no longer revoke the couples’ wills. These changes aim to eliminate injustices in the previous laws, but they may also create new problems. It is important to update estate planning documents for each jurisdiction in which you hold assets whenever your circumstances change.
Previously in Ontario, any will was deemed revoked upon marriage, unless it was made in contemplation of that marriage. This law had good intentions, but it often caused unintended intestacies. Therefore, this deemed revocation rule was removed for any marriage after January 1, 2022. However, any wills revoked by marriage before 2022 are not affected by this change.
There were cases where separated yet still married spouses inherited a decedent’s estate, which could create problems. To address this, the Succession Act was amended to provide that separated spouses do not inherit under a will or an intestate estate. The change is not retroactive, so if a spouse was separated within the meaning of the Act before 2022, that separated spouse could still inherit under the will or under the laws of intestacy.
These changes highlight the importance of seeking guidance from experienced estate planning professionals who are well-versed in the laws where your assets are located whenever your personal, financial, or familial circumstances materially change. It is crucial to periodically evaluate your estate plan to ensure that your interests are protected and your estate is administered in line with your wishes.
Ontario Mandates a New Transparency Register for Private Corporations
Starting January 1, 2023, Ontario’s Business Corporations Act (OBCA) mandates private corporations to maintain a Transparency Register that contains personal information of individuals with significant control (ISC) over the corporation.
Failure to comply with these amendments will result in penalties for non-compliance, making it essential for all directors and officers to ensure compliance. These changes have been implemented to promote transparency and combat corporate crime such as tax evasion and money laundering. Corporations except wholly owned subsidiaries of public companies must create and maintain a Transparency Register, and it must be updated annually with all relevant information about ISCs. The Transparency Register must contain the names, addresses, dates of birth, and tax jurisdiction of individuals, along with a description of their influence or interest in a significant number of shares. Failure to maintain this register or provide complete information can result in fines or imprisonment for directors, officers, and shareholders. All shareholders must respond to inquiries regarding the Transparency Register. The Transparency Register is not required to be filed with the government but must be presented to designated officials upon request. The penalties for non-compliance are high, and corporations must make every effort to comply with the new regulations.
WHO HAS ACCESS TO THE TRANSPARENCY REGISTER?
Corporations are not required to file the Transparency Register with the government. However, they will need to present the register to certain designated officials, such as the Ministry, tax authorities (CRA), certain regulators (OSC, FSRA, and FINTRAC), and police forces, if and when requested to do so.
Corporations are expected to keep their Transparency Register with their corporate minute books. Interestingly, shareholders of a corporation have no statutory right to inspect or extract information from the Transparency Register.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
Non-compliance with any of the new requirements can result in a fine of up to $5,000 for the corporation. Any director or officer of a corporation who knowingly authorizes, permits, or acquiesces in the corporation’s failure to prepare and maintain the Transparency Register can face fines of up to $200,000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment. Similarly, any shareholder of a corporation who knowingly fails to respond to the corporation’s Transparency Register requests can face fines of up to $200,000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.