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B.C. regulator fines CIBC $3.4M for mortgage documentation failures

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) violated the B.C. Consumer Protection Act, according to inspectors.
British Columbia’s consumer protection agency has fined CIBC over $3.4 million for failing to file mortgage discharge documents properly.

British Columbia’s consumer protection agency has fined CIBC over $3.4 million after inspectors found the bank in violation of mortgage discharge rules.

Consumer Protection BC said the bank failed to meet its obligations to adequately discharge mortgages upon sales, according to an Oct. 6 undertaking between the parties.

This is the fourth of Canada’s five major banks to be fined this year for such violations; six other banks, credit unions or financial institutions have also faced penalties.

The biggest penalty was issued to TD Canada Trust, at $5.3 million. Scotiabank ($387,150); Bank of Montreal ($132,700) and HSBC ($305,900) were also previously penalized for failing to discharge mortgages within 30 days of a mortgage loan being paid in full.

“Consumer Protection BC’s recent assessment of the financial sector’s compliance with provincial consumer protection laws showed that there is broad non-compliance when it comes to the requirement to provide a consumer with a discharge document within 30 days of a mortgage loan being paid in full,” the agency stated in July, adding investigations were conducted after hearing concerns from the Law Society of BC, Society of Notaries Public of BC and Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia.

CIBC will also need to show Consumer Protection BC that all of its standard residential mortgages have been paid out between Jan. 1, 2018 and April 1, 2022, the period of time that was investigated.

Ron Usher, lead counsel for the Society of Notaries Public of BC, has monitored the issue for years, saying he had observed compliance deteriorate despite a high-profile fraud case that was aided by undischarged mortgages.

A mortgage lender is required to provide the borrower with a discharge document so the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia can clear the property title. In B.C., the maximum fee a lender may charge for this document is $75.

In the event a homeowner sells their home with money owing on the mortgage, a lawyer or notary is typically the key to achieving a discharge as they take the money from the buyer and pay off the lender (with any leftover money going to the seller). At this point, the bank is to provide the discharge document to the borrower and land title office, thus providing the seller and buyer peace of mind of a clean transaction and property title.

Penalties were also issued to First National Financial GP Corporation ($29,200); Coast Capital Savings ($47,900); Vancouver City Savings Credit Union ($86,300); First West Credit Union ($14,000) and Prospera Credit Union ($8,800), in July.

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A previous version of this article erroneously attributed HSBC's fine to RBC.