Police are investigating two shocking cases of real estate fraud, in which two homes were listed for sale without the homeowner’s permission. One of these homes was in our very own community, the east end. Thankfully the owner’s family was able to put an end to the scam before the house was fraudulently sold. The second family was not as fortunate and their house was sold while they were away on an extended business trip.
Identity theft in order to sell a homeowner’s home is a complicated, sophisticated and predatory scheme involving many steps and many forged documents. It sounds so far-fetched that it is hard to believe it can actually happen!
In light of these recent events, we want to assure you that we take the responsibility for protecting your home very seriously.
Together, our real estate team has systematically reviewed our security protocols. We have committed to an even greater emphasis of diligently following procedures and due diligence processes so that we can ensure the safety of our clients and their homes always comes first.
Our role as REALTORS® – Confirming identities
As REALTORS®, we have an obligation to perform due diligence and verify the identities of the clients we deal with, as required under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA), and the Trust in Real Estate Services Act (TRESA).
We are also required to verify the identity of the homeowner/seller and complete a government-mandated FINTRAC compliance form. We do this for every person selling, buying and leasing a home. The homeowner is required to present valid government photo ID which must be confirmed by the agent while in the presence of the homeowner. The homeowner’s identity must match the name on the Land Registry and the title of the property. The REALTOR® is required to verify all of the above and also verify the documents for authenticity and accuracy.
We are a team with many eyes on the homes we list
In any given listing, it is typical for our REALTOR® to meet the owner at the property at least once, if not more often. In addition, there are many other professionals from our team who will also be coming and going and keeping an eye on the homes we list during the listing period. Such as, the designer, the prep team, tradespeople, the home inspector, the furniture delivery team, the staging team, the photographers who take photos from every angle and of course, the listing agent will be keeping tabs.
If the home is vacant, the listing agent will also check in on the home frequently to ensure lights are turned on and off and that everything is in perfect order. Needless to say, there are a lot of “eyes” on the properties we list.
We have a tight knit community where everyone knows and looks out for each other. Our entire DeClute family has lived and worked here in the east end, since the early 1900’s, first as builders and then as real estate agents.
After buying and selling homes on almost every street in the east end for four generations, we are well connected to the people in this community. With these strong community relationships, neighbours feel comfortable approaching us when something “feels off” about a home on their street – it’s that old fashioned “Community Watch”.
Our top 5 tips to help you protect your home
- If you are a snowbird, travelling, or planning to be out of your home for an extended period of time, do not post this information or your current location on social media platforms.
- When you plan to be away, ask a neighbour, family member, friend, or trusted REALTOR® to keep an eye on your home for you. (Check with your home insurance company as they usually have requirements about how often your home needs to be checked while you are away for maintenance reasons.)
- If you rent your property, make arrangements to periodically inspect the property. While you must give the tenant “quiet enjoyment of the property”, with notice, you are still legally allowed access to the unit for inspections. Make sure the locks haven’t been changed and only the people listed on the rental agreement are living in your property.
- If the property is a rental, make sure all tax bills, mortgage bills and other such documentation are sent to your principal residence. If you are going away for an extended period of time, you may also want to have all of your mail forwarded to a safe address while you are gone.
- Take note if your tax bill is no longer being delivered to your home. Make sure it is not going elsewhere. Set up online banking and property tax accounts, if possible, and protect your personal info. Get in the habit of checking your credit card reports, bank and credit card statements, and immediately report anything that seems irregular or incorrect.
- Shred personal documents. Make sure to collect your mail as soon as possible. If you are on vacation, ask a neighbour to collect the mail for you so it does not sit in your mailbox.
- Finally, consider purchasing title insurance, if you do not already have it. This is not a preventative measure, but it should provide you coverage if any fraud like this were to occur. Most homeowners will have obtained title insurance at the time of their purchase, but it can also be purchased afterwards. The policies are typically a one-time fee that run with the property for as long as you own it.
It’s important to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. Call us anytime to discuss anything we’ve mentioned above. We’re always happy to help!