Nova Scotia plots land registry strategy

The three most important things about real estate are of location, location, location, but a parcel of land isn’t worth a swampy acre if the data isn’t accurate.

With that in mind, Fredericton-based software company CARIS is

helping the province of Nova Scotia create a better land registry system.

Thanks to recently introduced legislation which moves the province from a deed-based to a parcel-based land registration system, the province’s legacy equipment needed to be replaced. To provide as much accurate information as possible, Nova Scotia turned to CARIS’ Land Information Network (LIN) application. The program will be responsible for a number of functions including supporting traditional registry and property mapping, maintaining and updating assessment information; providing access to scanned images, and providing connectivity between the electronic map and the parcel attribute data across the Internet for public queries.

“Rather than just providing information based on the best guess of our staff, we are guaranteeing that the information we are providing is right from a legal perspective,” says Robert deVet, business application owner, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

Denis Desrosier, solutions specialist at CARIS, says the browser-based Oracle app will allow users to get a complete picture of a piece of land.

“(It will show) everything that’s on that piece is registered to that property ID: mortgages, liens and accessed values and other types of official documents are linked to that parcel,” Desrosier says. “Any official piece of information the government would hold on a specific piece of land would be registered in the system. It’s historic, too. So historic documents are all scanned and referenced to the property ID.”

DeVet says the decision to buy was based on previous bad experiences trying to build. But instead of buying based on vendor promises, the province investigated how other provinces were dealing with the issue. He says he visited New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia and examined their solutions. New Brunswick’s model, he says, most closely resembled Nova Scotia’s in terms of process and legislation, and used a CARIS system.

The system is being rolled out county by county — 18 in all. Desrosier says most of the setup was done at head office and spent less than three weeks on site installing the system. Outside of integration, CARIS is responsible for updates, bug fixes and trouble shooting, while the province takes care of the day-to-day maintenance.

LIN went live in Colchester County in late March, but deVet is optimistic the new app will ease the stress on his IT staff.

“We’re still very much in pilot mode so it is hard to say, but I would dare to predict that it is going to be a lot less than the kind of maintenance that our legacy systems require today,” deVet says.

The data is being hosted by the province at a centralized data centre, solving a number of security issues. DeVet says while its Oracle system has a number of security features, it has the added protection of the province’s firewalls.

The project is expected to be complete in late 2004, but deVet says the time frame is not technology-driven.

“The legislation is so new we really didn’t know what to expect in terms of additional requirements, both from our staff and the external users,” he says. “It’s not so much the that IT issues are holding up a quicker rollout. It’s that because there is so much interactivity with the external users there’s a huge training effort involved. Lawyers, real estate agents, surveyors, development officers, all these kinds of people are heavily involved and that’s just a big logistical effort.”

Under the former Registry of Deeds system, the owner of the fee simple can only be determined through a review of the historic series of documents on file at the Registry of Deeds. The new legislation will see the government guarantee the fee simple ownership of registered parcels. Also, the system will be parcel-based, not names-based as it is under the Registry Act. Documents entering the Land Registry will be indexed to the unique location of the land parcel affected.

The market for this kind of application is growing quickly, according to Desrosier. He says world banks and developing countries are expressing a keen interest in its product. DeVet adds all the provinces are considering or moving forward on similar projects.

Ontario announced a $8.5 million deal last year a deal with Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) and Teranet Enterprises Inc. to create a digital parcel mapping database. But deVet says Ontario faces an enormous challenge converting all its paper records.

“Our data was already completely electronic and that is a big difference between the situation we’re in and the one Ontario is facing right now,” he says.

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