Title fraud – my experience by Mayor Fred Weekley, District of Katepwa Beach, Saskatchewan

Mar 3rd, 2014 | By FCT

I am fortunate to be the Mayor of the beautiful resort and retirement District of Katepwa Beach located on Katepwa Lake roughly 100 km east of Regina nestled in the Qu’Appelle valley. The District which is located along the TransCanada Trail was founded in the early 1900’s. We have a permanent population of  400 and about 1,200 in the summer that explodes to 3-5000 depending on the day.

In my career as a Financial Planner I would advise my clients to be as debt free as they can be prior to their retirement as part of a prudent strategy to build a financial nest egg. At the same time, homes that are clear title and have escalated significantly in value, like a seniors homes, are prime targets for title theft.  I’ve been aware of the potential for ‘title fraud’ (when someone fraudulently transfers the title of your home), placing a mortgage on your house then taking the mortgage monies or selling your home to someone else. But to me it appeared to be a “Big City problem” particularly where there are hot real estate markets. Now I know that the title fraud can strike anywhere and to anyone.

Last month the District Office called me advising that there was a fax request for the land location of our home. I called the ‘title search and transfer company’ that had sent the fax and when I asked why the details of the home were being requested, I was advised that “the house has been sold and they needed to transfer the title to the new owner.” When I requested the names of the buyer and realtor I was advised that this information was “confidential.”

It was that moment that I became “unglued” and identified myself as the owner and stated that the house was “not for sale.” I again stated that I needed the requested information before calling the RCMP to report the fraud – but to no avail.

My next step was to call my lawyer, who confirmed that it did indeed sound like title theft.  I then contacted the RCMP (both by phone and on line) to file a report and I alerted my bank and two credit bureaus to put “fraud alerts” on my accounts/files.  I now felt relatively secure.

My last step was to call the Information Services Corporation (ISC, Provincial Land Titles) Office. They advised me that all that was required for a title transfer was an ICS transfer form signed and notarized (real or fraudlent) by the owner and other associated paperwork. When I suggested that the signatures would be fraudulent, they agreed that was a possibility.   So it’s now up to you to prove that you didn’t sell the house or take out the mortgage!

I had been advised by ISC that title insurance  was not available in Saskatchewan however my Lawyer and one of our Ratepayers advised me to the contrary. I was put into contact with FCT (First Canadian Title) by the Ratepayer.  Marie Taylor and Lisa Gares at FCT have advised me that title insurance does in fact provide protection for a homeowner against actual loss as a result of title fraud. FCT’s residential title insurance policy provides coverage for actual loss as a result of a covered risk up to 200% of the purchase price, so there is a built in increase to cover property value increases. Legal fees to restore your title are paid for and do not reduce the amount of your title insurance. The other benefit is that the title insurer will do the title recovery work for you.

We are now more comfortable and feel more secure as owners with a title insurance policy.  The insurance doesn’t prevent the fraud but does give you the financial ability and professionals to recover from the incident and I’m a firm believer that title insurance is an important part of your financial nest egg.

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