Law Society Seeking Input from Real Estate Practitioners
Recently, the Real Estate Committee met with representatives of Service NL to discuss a potential transition from the current Registry system to a Land Titles System (Torrens System). While no commitments to proceed with this approach have been made by government, Service NL is considering legislation similar to the Land Titles legislation in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as a first step in a gradual process to migrate the Registry of Deeds over to a Land Titles System.
Similar to what occurred in Nova Scotia, solicitors may be asked to “Certify Land Title” to parcels of land, which, if accepted by Service NL/Registrar/Land Titles Counsel, would lead to the grant of a Certificate of Title under the new system. While this might not be a problem for parcels with a clear root of title from a Quieting of Title, Crown Grant, legislation etc., the issue of possessory title and acceptable standards, given that potential amendments and challenges with current legislation are yet to be resolved and may be separate and handled by a different government department, would be a complicating factor. As you may recall, on January 9, 2023 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador sought public and stakeholder input on amendments to section 36 of the Lands Act which focuses on adverse possession of Crown lands – commonly referred to as “squatters’ rights.” That consultation was focused on the following options:
- Changing the possessory period of land from the current 20 continuous years immediately prior to January 1, 1977, to 10 continuous years immediately prior to January 1, 1977. No other period of possession would count in acquiring an interest in Crown lands;
- Setting a definitive time period within which persons making claims to Crown lands based on adverse possession have to make those claims; and
- Allowing the Crown to issue a document that declares the Crown claims no interest where the conditions of adverse possession have been met, without granting title or transferring any interest.
As a result of the Crown Lands consultation process, a document called “What We Heard?” was prepared. It can be found at: https://www.engagenl.ca/en/consultation-amendments-adverse-possession-provision-lands-act-s-36
On the issue of a potential Land Titles system, Service NL is seeking practical input from the Law Society on the following questions:
- Are there elements of Nova Scotia/New Brunswick transitions to include or avoid?
- Are there legalissues specific to Newfoundland and Labrador to address that may not be reflected in the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick Acts?
- How might standards of “good title” be developed? Nova Scotia’s Land Registration Act states, “The qualified lawyer’s opinion of title… shall be prepared in accordance with the relevant Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society practice standards in effect at the time of the opinion…”
In order to provide meaningful input, the Law Society is seeking feedback from real estate practitioners on the potential for such a transition and the three questions outlined above.
Please provide any comments/suggestions to Brenda B. Grimes, KC at firstname.lastname@example.org by September 20, 2023.