Casual Legal: A Land Titles Story

By Jeff Daniels
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider 

Processing times at the Alberta Land Titles Office have slowed significantly in the past year, to the point where it takes about 100 days to process and register documents following receipt. This delay creates a unique issue for municipalities and new owners as property tax deadlines approach.

In a typical residential real estate transaction, a buyer pays for a property and takes possession on a specified date. When payment is received, a transfer of land is submitted to the Land Titles Office for registration. Once the transfer is registered, the Land Titles office sends notice of the change in ownership to the relevant municipality. In most instances, this notice is currently being received more than three months after the actual change in ownership.

Generally speaking, the Municipal Government Act (the “MGA”) requires municipalities to send tax assessments and notices to the registered owner(s) of the property as shown on a certificate of title. Where there has been a recent sale, this requirement inevitably results in tax documents being sent to a seller rather than the new owner.

Pursuant to section 304(3) of the MGA, a person who purchases a property must provide the municipality with written notice of a mailing address to which tax notices may be sent. Many buyers are not aware of this requirement and failing to provide written notice may result in the new owner not receiving a tax notice but still being responsible for paying property taxes when due, as well as the resulting penalties which will accrue following non-payment.

Municipalities will often receive notice of an upcoming property sale, typically by a request for a tax certificate from the lawyers representing the buyer and seller. While there is no obligation for a municipality to do so, municipalities may choose to advise the buyer’s lawyer to direct the buyer to contact the municipality with proof of purchase and an address for delivery of tax documents. Once an address is received, the municipality can add the buyer as an interested party on the tax roll account and send notices accordingly. Even if a municipality becomes aware of a sale, the tax notice must still be sent to the registered owner.

Although it is not a perfect solution, this process could help municipalities better ensure taxes are paid on time and save their tax departments from dealing with unhappy residents, both past and present.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to reach the Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.