Saturday, March 8, 2008

Understanding Land Title Searches

In my 14 years in municipal inspections this has been one of the most misunderstood portions of the design and building process.

A title search is a process where someone searches the public records in the city or town where a piece of property is located. The searcher will go through the grantor and grantee indexes and examine the documents recorded in the land registry concerning that particular piece of property. This is usually performed by a lawyer, notorary, private search agency or in some cases can be provided by your local building authority.

During a title search, several key things are examined. For instance, mortgages, real estate taxes, liens for sewers, roadways, sidewalks, and other municipal improvements, federal taxes, government claims, legal judgments, foreclosures, condemnations, covenants, and easements and liens placed on title by previous contractors. Many municipalities are turning to registering notices on title in the event that work has been done without permits or that there are outstanding permit issues that have never been resolved and may have significant structural or safety issues.

(For specific information on Title Searches contact your lawyer or local building department (if they are not too busy) or drop us a line at )

All building departments require a copy a recent copy of a title search at the time of application. This is to ensure that there are no legal restrictions, which would inhibit the proposed construction, and to provide proof of ownership and ensure that in the case of a new subdivision that the lots have been registered with the Land Registry Office . Some also have private building scheme restrictions, which will limit the style and look of you new home, or addition and set time limits to completion. If you are building in a rural area, then it is important to review if there are limitations to where you can build do to septic system covenants. Many home additions or pool plans have been squashed due to septic field locations. When you factor in all restrictions it can seem like you are trying fit a square into a round hole.

There have been many instances that lots are pre-sold and then the permit applications are made but the lots have not been legally registered. This process can be lengthy and it is important that the lot purchaser inquires if and when the lots will be registered by the developer. There may be amendments to the original documents that may put further restrictions on the proposed plans. Permit applications have been delayed by months and have caused much grief for building authorities and owners.

Another big whammy for some home owners are covenants revolving around geotechnical (Okanagan Geology Mar 1) and environmental issues and as we continue to develop up the hillsides it will become more predominant as local jurisdications protect themselves against future legal action. These covenants may create a safe build area, which may be smaller than the zoning regulations, drainage and retaining requirements and in some cases will require a soils engineer for the foundation design and site reviews. This can create a significant increase in the cost of construction and limit your home or renovation design. For some reason this is a major item that is not explained very well to potential home buyers of hillside lots.

Please take to time to obtain a recent copy of your title and to understand what is registered against your title.

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