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.
The report, compiled by HomeVerified (homeverified.ca), a company based in London, is available for homes in every major municipality in Canada. Distribution and sales of the reports are being handled by Teranet, the company which owns and operates Ontario’s electronic land registration and title search services on behalf of the province of Ontario.
A typical home history report will include the following information:
The grow-op registry may be the most valuable component of the home history report for home buyers. HomeVerified’s comprehensive database has been assembled from countless Freedom of Information requests made to police forces across the country. (Disclosure by some police forces has not been as complete as hoped for, but the database includes all addresses that are currently available.)
I can also foresee the HomeVerified report eventually being used for every Canadian mortgage and refinance application by those lenders who do not compile their own database of grow-op properties.
Alex Weiner, owner of HomeVerified, told me last week that he started this venture because “we were amazed that anyone conducting their due diligence when buying a car could obtain a vehicle history report with insurance claims and other information, but there was no report for a resale home, which is usually the single largest purchase most Canadians ever make.”
A sample report is available on the company’s website at homeverified.ca.
The insurance claim portion of the report is assembled from a database of 8 million insurance company records. Each report will disclose whether the home has been the subject of a claim for water or fire damage, burglary or theft, windstorm or hail, vandalism or malicious acts, glass breakage, building collapse or any other type of damage.
The HomeVerified report is available to real estate agents, lawyers, banks and other Teranet subscribers for $39.95. Homeowners and non-Teranet subscribers can buy the reports for $69.95, plus HST.
In each case, the current owner of the home must consent to the release of the report. The standard form Ontario Real Estate Association listing agreement contains language broad enough to permit realtors to order the reports for homes they list. Home sellers who do not wish the report to be ordered should provide clear instructions to their agents when offering their homes for sale.
As valuable as this HomeVerified report will be to the real estate market, I have serious doubts that a current homeowner has the authority to authorize the release and distribution of the claims history of his or her house made by prior owners.
HomeVerified’s position on privacy is based on a 2011 Alberta Court of Appeal decision involving Leon’s Furniture, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. HomeVerified interprets that case to mean that the claims history of a house is only about the property and does not disclose any personal information about the prior owner who made the claim.
My own view is that since the names of the prior owners are readily and publicly available from a title search, the information about their claims (for example, the theft of a large quantity of valuable jewelry) is personal and should not be disclosed.
Ultimately, that question may well be decided by provincial privacy commissioners across the country if objections are made to the release of personal claims information.
In the meantime, a number of real estate agents I spoke to last week strongly endorse the HomeVerified report and have told me that they intend to start using it right away.
Bob Aaron is a sole practitioner at the law firm of Aaron & Aaron in Toronto and a past board member of the Tarion Warranty Corp. Bob specializes in the areas of real estate, corporate and commercial law, estates and wills and landlord/tenant law. His Title Page column appears alternate Fridays in The Toronto Star and alternate weeks on Move Smartly. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org