HomeVerified Will Be Valuable New Tool for Home Buyers

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Resale home’s
history now available through HomeVerified and it has the potential to
become an industry standard in every residential house purchase.

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 home’s insurance claims history for current and prior owners.
  • The insurance claims record for the neighbourhood.
  • Local school rankings.
  • Local demographics and amenities, such as banks, coffee shops, transit and shopping.
  • Contact information for politicians, including the mayor, MPs, MPPs, and municipal councillors.
  • Any history of a grow-op in the house or condominium unit, showing results from a Canada-wide search for marijuana grow-ops.
  • 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 bob@aaron.ca

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