This is the first week of e-signatures being an accepted way to close a deal on a new home in Ontario, as an update to the province’s real estate law took effect.
According to an article in The Toronto Star, an amendment to the Electronic Commerce Act came into force on Canada Day and permits buyers and sellers of land, as well as borrowers and lenders, to sign agreements, deeds, and mortgages electronically. The signatures still have to be proven as reliable to identify the person doing the signing, and the attachment of the signature to the right electronic document must also be reliable. The law doesn’t outline any requirements as to how an e-signature is considered reliable, so that’s up to the agent to determine.
The legal shift follows the trend of digital signatures becoming more accepted lately, even in some of the most fraud-adverse industries. The Royal Bank of Canada has been allowing its customers to open up new accounts by use of e-signatures since October, a transaction that also previously required a physical pen-and-paper signature. It’s a case of law catching up with technological capability, as many e-signatures solutions can be even more secure than ink.
For example, an e-signature solution can guide a signer through a document and show metrics on exactly how they engaged with each page, making intent more clear to a judge. Documents can be locked after the e-signatures are collected to ensure that no details of the contract are changed after the fact, and a perfect document history can be pulled when any audit activities are required.
Ontario is the sixth province to update its real estate laws, following Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.