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Real estate law column by Bob Aaron

New research tool invaluable to home buyers

A new type of home history report is now available on the market, and it has the potential to become an industry standard in every residential house transaction.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Innocent landowners responsible for environmental cleanup, court rules

In one of the scariest court decisions of recent years, the Ontario Divisional Court has ruled that innocent landowners can be held responsible to remedy contamination caused to their properties by a neighbour.

Back in December, 2008, Thompson Fuels filled the fuel oil tanks at the Hazel St. home of Wayne and Liana Gendron in the city of Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay). Subsequently, several hundred litres of the oil leaked from the basement of the house onto city property.

Disclosure statement meant buyers recovered damages, but listing agent escaped liability

A Saskatoon real estate agent and his brokerage have escaped liability to the purchasers of a home with a wet basement in a misrepresentation lawsuit. Although they recovered their damages from the sellers, the unhappy buyers were ordered to pay the agent’s costs out of their own pocket.

Who has the authority to correct land registry errors?

Perhaps the most fundamental principle of property ownership in Ontario is that users of the land registration system can rely on it for an accurate reflection of title. If an error occurs in the registry, the courts, or the Director of Titles should have the authority and even the obligation to correct it.

Those principles were turned upside down by a court decision in January, and stakeholders are anxiously waiting to see if the Court of Appeal will reverse the decision.

Title insurance really isn't optional

Despite the fact that residential title insurance has been commonplace in Ontario for the last 15 years, many of my clients still ask me what it covers just as we are about to sign the closing papers for their home purchase.

Even though I provide them in advance with an electronic or paper copy of the excellent Ontario Bar Association brochure “Working With a Lawyer When You Buy a Home” (find it at, examining the brochure often gets moved to the B list of priorities in the frantic rush before closing.

Court rules real estate agent isn’t responsible for home inspection

An Ontario real estate agent has escaped responsibility for failing to review the results of a professional home inspection with his purchaser client, according to a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal earlier this year.
In a 2011 case, which sent shock waves through the real estate community, a real estate agent was ruled 25 per cent responsible for the buyer’s damages for taking a “hands-off approach” with respect to the home inspection, and because he failed to warn his client about the implications of the home inspector’s report.

Condo boards cannot ignore democratic process

A recent decision of the Superior Court of Justice in London, Ont., carries a powerful message about the consequences that can result when a condominium board refuses to comply with the democratic process set out in the legislation.

When your house belongs to your neighbour

Imagine waking up one morning to find out that the house you are living in and have listed for sale belongs to your next-door neighbours, and their house belongs to you.
That’s what happened earlier this month after clients of mine asked me to review an agreement to buy a home while the offer was still conditional. The property is an attractive house in the Caledonia-Fairbanks area built in 2005-6.

Seasoned real estate lawyers best help for home contracts

A decision of the Ontario Divisional Court this summer ( underscores the importance of having an experienced real estate lawyer review a builder purchase agreement before it is signed.
Patrick Ha and Rosanna Chiu purchased a new home in Markham from Arista Homes (Boxgrove) Inc. A schedule to the agreement of purchase and sale contained a list entitled: “The following items are included in the purchase price.”

Higher property assessment doesn’t necessarily mean higher taxes

Ontario property owners may soon be in for a shock when they receive their new property assessment notice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean their taxes are going up.
Sometime this fall, all Ontario property owners are scheduled to receive notice of their 2012 assessed values from the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC). In some areas of the province, the average valuations will show an increase of as much as 29 per cent over 2008, but that does not mean that property taxes will automatically increase.


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