Seller Property Information Statements


By
Owen Duguid
January 1, 2014

When selling a property, a seller may be approached to complete and sign a ‘Seller Property Information Statement’ (“SPIS”). The SPIS will typically contain a number of questions that relate to various aspects of the property and surrounding area.

Some examples from the Ontario Real Estate Association’s SPIS Form 220:

  • Are you aware of any non-compliance with zoning regulations?
  • Are there any public projects planned for the neighbourhood?
  • Are there any current or pending Heritage restrictions for the property or the area?

These are just a few examples of the range of questions asked of sellers. If you are selling a condominium unit or a rural property, you may be asked to complete additional schedules that contain questions related to those specific types of property.

Although these standard forms may contain a caution/disclaimer to buyers that the information is being provided for information purposes only, and that the statements are not a warranty, a great amount of caution should be exercised by the seller both in deciding whether to provide such statements, and if so, in completing the statements.

In 2013, the Ontario Real Estate Association introduced Form 225 entitled “Important Information for Sellers”. This form largely serves as a standalone caution for anyone who is voluntarily completing an SPIS. Of particular note is the following statement contained in Form 225:

“There have been cases where a court has determined the sellers completed the SPIS accurately, honestly and to the best of their ability and the evidence provided by the SPIS is favourable to the sellers. There have been other cases where a court has determined that a seller has not been forthcoming with important information on the SPIS or has provided misleading information to the buyers”.

Courts have not been consistent in deciding whether to ignore or uphold the previously mentioned caution/disclaimer. Accordingly, information disclosed on a SPIS could become litigious despite this warning to buyers.

A seller should always consider the following:

  • Completion of a SPIS is never mandatory.
  • Certain answers will require expertise beyond that of most sellers, such as advice related to legal, environmental, construction, and planning matters.
  • A seller’s knowledge of matters relating to the property are typically limited to the seller’s period of ownership, whereas some questions may relate to events which occurred prior to the seller’s ownership.
  • Professional advice in various forms is always available, and a seller is always free to consult with professionals in advance of signing a SPIS.

A buyer should always consider the following:

  • A completed SPIS is never a substitute for the buyer’s own due diligence, and a buyer should always arrange for a professional home inspection.
  • A buyer can also protect him/herself through contract terms.

If you have any questions about Seller Property Information Statements or any other real estate matters, please contact us.