Deal makers offered digital option to submitting FOI requests to the Ministry of Environment

Deal makers might avoid needless FOI requests

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Deal makers may be able to shave some time off real estate transactions in Ontario through a proposed digital channel for submitting property-related information requests to the Ministry of the Environment. An outline of the envisioned service, now posted on Ontario’s regulatory registry for public comment, promotes it as an efficient alternative to the current paper-based system, which requires prospective purchasers to submit freedom of information (FOI) requests under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) to discover if the ministry holds any environmental records on a property.

“Due to the volume of FOI requests received by the ministry, and the manual search process that is required to retrieve information, requests can be slow to fulfill,” it acknowledges.

The proposed new digital service promises to streamline and speed up the process of verifying whether a property is listed with the ministry. However, requests could still be submitted via an FOI if proponents prefer that approach.

Through the digital option, information seekers could pay a $65 fee to submit an online request form, and would receive confirmation of the existence of any records within five business days. From there, they would still have to file an FOI request to find out more details about any records the ministry did hold.

“Property-related information requests are used by requesters to facilitate real estate transactions in Ontario with an estimated annual value of $40 billion,” the proposal states. “This will reduce delays for the real estate industry and property developers by allowing them to make faster and better informed decisions to support property transactions.”

Interested parties can submit comments on the proposed service until May 31.

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