The most important thing a real estate lawyer must do for his purchaser clients is to confirm the exact dimensions, and location, of the property they are buying.
Boro Radjevic learned how important this is the hard way when he recently found out that a 2.21-metre strip of land adjacent to his three-storey townhouse doesn’t belong to him — it’s actually owned by the City of Toronto.
When Radjevic bought his property, at the corner of Danforth Ave. and Craven Rd, in 2009, both the MLS listing and purchase agreement described the land as Parts 24, 25 and 26 on a surveyor’s reference plan registered on title to the property. The agreement also showed the frontage as 21.09 feet on Danforth.
But Radjevic’s deed shows that he only owns Parts 24 and 25, with a frontage of just 13.94 feet. The city owns Part 26, which is the concrete-covered strip of property next to his home. Radjevic always thought it was his.
But Part 26 on the reference plan is incorrectly listed as belonging to him, both on Radjevic’s tax bill and the records of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). Unfortunately, it is not on his deed; he doesn’t own it.
He learned about all this earlier this year when Bell Canada was upgrading some equipment on the concrete strip. When Radjevic tried to halt the installation, he was told the city owned the land. He was shown the reference plan to prove it.
City staff later confirmed the mistake on his tax bill, and they are reviewing steps to take “corrective action.”
Last month I discussed this situation with reporter John Rieti on the CBC-TV Toronto news. Several red flags were waving, but missed, before Radjevic’s home purchase deal closed:
- The agreement of purchase and sale showed the land being bought as Parts 24, 25 and 26 on the registered reference plan. Yet the deed only shows Parts 24 and 25.
- The registered plan is in fact a survey of the property.
- The measurements of the land on the purchase agreement show a frontage of 21.09 feet. Yet the width of the land in the deed, Parts 24 and 25, is only 13.94 feet. Comparing these dimensions would have revealed the discrepancy, and could have been used to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price.
In my view, the most critical part of the duty of a real estate lawyer to a purchaser is to examine the old title deeds, any available survey, the plan of subdivision, and the land details in the purchase agreement to determine the exact dimensions and location of the land being purchased. And to verify them with the purchaser before closing.
Radjevic expects to get a property tax refund after overpaying for years on land he doesn’t own, but he also “lost” a valuable piece of land that he believed was his.
Bob Aaron is Toronto real estate lawyer. His Title Page column appears on this blog, Move Smartly, and in The Toronto Star. You can follow Bob on Twitter @bobaaron2 and at his website aaron.ca Email Bob