Finally, the Alberta Land Titles Office (the “LTO”) is taking action to reduce the lengthy delays we face when registering documents relating to land in the Province. If you own, lease, mortgage or otherwise deal with land in Alberta, you may be interested in the proposed ALTA 2 Digital Submission Process and Pending Registration Request Listing Service (the “New System”). The LTO plans to introduce the New System in November 2007. The New System is long overdue and, if it works as planned, should make it easier, faster and perhaps cheaper to close Alberta real estate deals.

Currently, the LTO does not instantaneously register documents. Instead, we submit documents to the LTO and we wait (sometimes for several weeks) for the LTO to approve the documents. These delays can wreak havoc for those trying to close Alberta real estate deals, whether the deal includes only Alberta real estate or whether the Alberta real estate is part of a much larger transaction. These delays can also come as an unwelcome and expensive shock to those who are unfamiliar with the LTO’s current procedures.

So far, consumers and their lawyers have coped with the registration delays. They have relied on a complex pre-closing system involving lawyers’ trust conditions. More recently, they have also turned to title insurance for a quick (although expensive) fix. In exchange for the payment of a premium, some of the title insurance companies will offer “gap” coverage, essentially allowing people to close their deals before the documents have been registered.

The New System is similar to the British Columbia land registration system and will work as follows:

  • Documents will be submitted to the LTO and will be shown as pending, which means that they have been submitted but not yet examined by the LTO and added to title.
  • We can search and view pending documentation submitted for registration at the LTO for potentially competing pending submissions.
  • If nothing appears, we can proceed with the transaction knowing that there are no competing documents awaiting registration.
  • If competing registrations do appear, we may contact the corresponding party using the information provided by the New System to clarify and then proceed with the transaction.

In British Columbia a practice has developed where transactions close and money exchanges hands in reliance on pending numbers and not on the actual certificate of title. We note that title is only assured once actual registration occurs and a certificate of title is issued by the LTO. Advancing money based upon reliance on pending registrations is not bullet proof and parties must be cognizant of the risks involved. Only time will tell whether the New System will result in Alberta land transactions closing on a same day basis as it has in British Columbia.