The Western Law Societies Conveyancing Protocol involves all four western provinces. The most significant developments are that a standard form of opinion will be offered to financial institutions operating in all four western provinces, and transactions can be closed on time. This will be advantageous for conveyancing practitioners and for financial institutions. Each province was able to develop its own protocol and procedure in relation to the initiative. In Saskatchewan, we have the benefit of the Saskatchewan Practice Checklist, published by the Law Society of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Legal Education Society Inc. These practice standards form the basis of the Protocol Checklist, and the efforts of the authors and commentators are hereby acknowledged. As a result of the Real Estate section of the Saskatchewan Practice Checklists, the Protocol and related documents required for this initiative are very concise.
Subject to documented compliance with the Protocol Checklist, lawyers enhance the services offered by the Protocol:
The Protocol applies to existing, single-family residential properties, including existing condominium units. The Protocol applies to mortgages granted in favour of participating financial institutions and will apply to mortgages for any purpose including financing the purchase price of land. The Protocol will also apply to "cash" transactions where the purchaser’s solicitor certifies compliance. The Protocol does not apply in the following circumstances:
Any concerns as to the application of the Protocol can be addressed to the Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association Inc. The use of the Protocol, and compliance with the Protocol Checklist, will result in the lawyer being insured for the transaction without the application of a deductible.
It must be stressed that the Protocol does not protect the lawyer from a deductible claim in relation to a purchaser’s claim for damages arising out of a survey or zoning defect. The lawyer will be insured for loss incurred by a purchaser arising from error or omissions in relation to the registration of the transfer of land during the Insured Period. Therefore, it is recommended that each lawyer consider and implement a form of purchaser’s acknowledgement of instructions. Please see Attachments for a sample format.
A significant benefit of the Protocol is that conveyancing practice will be more standard across the province. Through standard use of the Protocol Checklist by practitioners it is also anticipated that fewer practice claims may arise. It is the purchaser’s solicitor who will be completing the Protocol Checklist, certifying compliance with the Protocol Checklist, and issuing the Solicitor’s Opinion for the transaction. However, as part of the Protocol Checklist, the purchaser’s solicitor must carefully review trust conditions and undertakings. Agreement on the trust conditions and undertakings with the vendor’s lawyer is essential. Use of an approved standard trust condition format will reduce possible conflict between solicitors. It will also mean that if proper use is made of the approved trust condition letter, there will be deemed compliance with the Protocol. It is possible that acceptance of trust conditions, other than the approved standard, may result in the solicitor not being able to rely on the coverage extended to the lawyer under the Protocol. Please see Attachments for the approved trust condition letter.
The Protocol Checklist establishes a critical closing procedure in relation to Judgment Registry searches. In many firms, judgment registry searches will be done at the time of receipt of instructions. While it may be good practice to determine whether any potential problems will arise as early in the transaction as possible, for the purposes of the Protocol Checklist, it is extremely important that a judgment registry search be done on the working date prior to closing. The Protocol is designed to protect the solicitor against interests arising during the Insured Period only, not the entire period of time since the initial searches were conducted.
Once the judgment registry searches have been performed, the Protocol Checklist must be reviewed in its entirety by the responsible lawyer and the certification must be completed prior to issuing the Solicitor’s Opinion and closing the transaction. The post-closing obligations of the parties remain in place, pursuant to the trust conditions and undertakings. The approved trust conditions address the responsibility to correct documents in the event that documents are rejected by the ISC. Current documents will be available at the Law Society of Saskatchewan website.
Once the judgment registry searches have been completed and the Protocol Checklist has been reviewed and certified, the short-form opinion can be released and the transaction can be completed by paying funds to the vendor’s solicitor. As the Protocol protects both the Purchaser and the mortgagee against intervening interests during the Insured Period, the Vendor’s funds are immediately releasable by the Vendor’s solicitor, subject to complying with trust conditions and undertakings.
No additional fee or charge is applicable to the use of Protocol at this time. This enhanced service may warrant some consideration for legal fees to be charged consistent with the suggested tariff of fees.