Whether you are buying or selling, many people have questions about real estate law in Ontario. Even frequent real estate buyers and sellers can encounter new topics and issues they have not previously dealt with.
This post will outline some of the most commonly asked Ontario real estate questions. If you have questions that are not answered below, or need assistance with a real estate transaction, you are encouraged to speak with our experienced real estate lawyers for further guidance.
What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?
Real estate lawyers help clients with the legal aspects of a real estate deal. Typically, a real estate lawyer becomes involved once a contract of purchase and sale has been signed. A lawyer will review the contract and title to the property to ensure there are no legal issues, help the client meet their obligations under the contract of purchase and sale, and navigate any issues that may arise before the closing date. When the closing date arrives, the lawyer will complete and submit the documentation required to transfer the property title from one party to another.
The above is a fairly simplified explanation of what a real estate lawyer does, however, there are many moving parts in a real estate transaction and real estate lawyers are necessary to ensure the deal closes smoothly. Beyond transactional work, real estate lawyers can also help by reviewing a contract of purchase and sale before it is signed, negotiating with other parties on various issues, and providing representation should a property dispute require litigation.
Differences Between Real Estate Lawyers and Agents
Real estate lawyers and real estate agents (or realtors) might seem similar, but they fill very different roles in a real estate transaction. While a real estate agent is typically involved in the “front-end” work of finding a property to buy or managing the sale of a property, the real estate lawyer handles the “back-end” legal aspects and documentation of the purchase and sale.
Do the Buyer and Seller Need Separate Lawyers?
The Law Society of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct do not generally permit lawyers to represent both a buyer and a seller in a residential property purchase due to conflicts of interest. However, some exceptions may apply.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Real Estate Transaction?
Buyers and sellers should hire a real estate lawyer as soon as possible into their real estate transaction. Ideally, it is best to hire a real estate lawyer before a contract of purchase and sale is signed to obtain a review and become aware of any problematic clauses that may require amendments.
However, many buyers and sellers hire a real estate lawyer after signing the purchase and sale contract. When hiring a lawyer, it is important to be aware of the closing date and ensure that the real estate lawyer is afforded sufficient time to work on the file and complete all of the necessary steps.
What Questions Should I Ask an Ontario Real Estate Lawyer Before Hiring Them?
Before hiring a real estate lawyer, a client may want to ask some questions to make sure they are hiring the right person. Some common questions clients ask a real estate lawyer include, but are not limited to:
- What fees will be charged for the transaction? Understanding the legal fees involved is critical for budgeting purposes.
- How long have you been practicing real estate? At Baker & Company, our residential real estate lawyers have over 30 years of experience representing clients in real estate transactions.
- Can I sign legal documents electronically? Real estate transactions often have tight turnaround times, so clients cannot always attend their lawyer’s office to sign documents in person. Law permitting, hiring a lawyer who can provide electronic registration and direct funds transfers can be extremely useful in some cases.
- Can you assist me if something goes wrong? If a real estate dispute arises, it is important to know that your lawyer will be able to help you. Our firm has a comprehensive litigation practice and can represent clients in real estate disputes.
What Costs Are Associated with Real Estate Transactions?
Beyond the cost of purchasing a residential property, a party to a real estate transaction must be aware of additional costs including taxes and other closing fees.
When buying a house in Ontario, a purchaser will need to pay the Land Transfer Tax. Depending on the location and type of property, they may also need to pay Harmonized Sales Tax and Additional Land Transfer Tax.
Beyond property-related charges, it is also important to consider the lawyer’s fees, which can vary.
What Happens if I Cannot Complete My Purchase or Sale?
Assuming the parties have already signed a contract of purchase and sale, different things might happen if one party is no longer able to complete their contractual obligations.
When a buyer purchases a property, they will provide a financial “deposit” when they sign the contract of purchase and sale. If they are later unable to proceed, or choose not to complete the contract, that deposit will often be forfeited to the buyer.
If a seller is unable to proceed or chooses not to complete a contract, they may be sued by the buyer, as there is no deposit to forfeit.
Does the Foreign Buyer Ban Affect Me?
As of January 1, 2023, non-Canadians have been banned from buying residential property in Canada for two years (until January 1, 2025) to help cool off Canada’s housing market.
However, this temporary ban comes with some exceptions. Individuals who are either a permanent resident of Canada, a temporary resident who satisfies prescribed conditions, a refugee, or a foreign individual who is purchasing residential real estate with their spouse or common-law partner who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, may still be eligible to purchase residential property.
Contact the Real Estate Lawyers at Baker & Company in Toronto for Comprehensive Advice and Representation in Real Estate Matters
At Baker & Company, our trusted real estate lawyers ensure that residential and corporate real estate transactions run smoothly. If a dispute arises during the transaction, our lawyers are prepared to advocate on behalf of clients and obtain the best possible outcome. Our real estate team will review all documentation related to your file and will provide comprehensive advice throughout the transaction or dispute. Whether you are a Canadian or a non-resident looking to purchase property, or are a property owner looking to refinance, our real estate team is ready to assist. Contact us online or at 416-777-0100 to learn how we can help you.