Electronic signatures legal in real estate deals as of July 1, 2015

Real Estate Deal Signatures

Ontario is now making the process of buying or selling a home much easier by making it possible for real estate documentation to be signed in electronic format.

When Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act was first introduced in 2000, it permitted specific legal documents to be signed with electronic signatures. Documents that created or transfered interest in land, and required registration to be effective against third parties, were excluded from the Act and still necessitated handwritten signatures.

This will change on Canada Day as an amendment to the Electronic Commerce Act comes into force. Effective on July 1, 2015, modifications to the Electronic Commerce Act will make electronic signatures legally the same as to signatures on paper documents for real estate transactions. Under existing legislation, when real estate is sold, many copies of documents such as offers and agreements of sale, need to be signed by hand.

Permitting these financial transactions to be signed in electronic format will also make it more convenient to send legal documents electronically and save time for anyone buying or selling property, particularly when the two parties are separated by distance.

Offering more convenient solutions for consumers is a portion of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario’s economy stronger. This four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the most extensive financial investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, developing a dynamic and innovative environment where business flourishes, and creating a secure retirement savings plan.

It is difficult to say whether these new changes will actually be adopted by the realtors and others involved in the sale and purchase of real estate. Many lenders may not accept electronic signatures if they become linked to fraudulent activities.