July 1, 2015
Legislation is now in place that allows electronic signatures to be used for the agreement of purchase and sale (APS) in real estate transactions.
As of July 1, the APS, which is the most commonly-used form - the centerpiece of all real estate transactions - can be sent and received electronically, according to new Ontario laws.
We’re absolutely delighted with the news that the APS can now be sent electronically,” says Patricia Verge (pictured speaking at a news conference), president of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). “This will mean faster and more convenient transactions for consumers and REALTORS® alike. The APS is one of the most important documents in a real estate transaction. The ability to sign it electronically will make the process of buying or selling more efficient. This is great news for REALTORS® as well as consumers across the province.
"For anyone who buys or sells a house in Ontario, this change makes the entire transaction faster and easier."
Previously, the APS had to be faxed, scanned or emailed numerous times during the course of a real estate transaction. “This process could be cumbersome and by the time the final version is signed, the agreement was often difficult to read,” she says. “With this change, agreements can be filled out on a computer or tablet, and changes can be tracked and documents can be transmitted with ease.
Over the past several years, OREA has been lobbying the government extensively, urging it to put into effect new legislation that removed the exclusion of the APS from the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000. Previously, the APS was exempt from the act, meaning this key document, the workhorse of every transaction, had to be conveyed in hard copy, adding to the cost, time and challenge of the delivery and receipt of documents.
In 2013, the government’s budget bill repealed the exemption, moving the province a step closer to electronic transactions. This change was the result of ongoing advocacy work from OREA to raise awareness of this issue in government corridors. OREA’s campaign included calls to action, letters to the government, and countless meetings.
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Although the government amended the legislation and removed the exemption in 2013, the change did not take effect immediately. The bill passed, but it was not immediately proclaimed, meaning that traditional paper documents had to continue to be used until this last step in the process was complete. The government reserves the right to create regulations before legislation becomes law, and it took time to review the legislation to determine whether additional regulations would be needed. OREA took the position that additional regulations were not needed.
On June 29, the government announced that it had approved the final proclamation to the amendment. In proclaiming the bill, the government has now confirmed that it supports that position and approves electronic signatures for the APS.
Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s attorney general, stated that “Buying or selling a home is one of the most complex, time-consuming transactions that most people make – it’s also one of the most important. I hope that this change will open the door to new and innovative processes that will ultimately make the experience easier and less stressful for families.”
“For anyone who buys or sells a house in Ontario, this change makes the entire transaction faster and easier,” adds Verge. “Whether we are next door or across the province from our clients, we as REALTORS® can now provide the kind of service that modern consumers expect and deserve.”
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