Writs System in Ontario
A variety of Federal and Provincial (Ontario) statutes, regulations or an order of the court may act as the authority for the issuance of a writ of seizure and sale, writ of seizure and sale of lands or other similar document. Collectively, these documents are referred to as writs of execution.
A writ of execution is generally is a court order or other statutory authority that permits a creditor to instruct a sheriff to seize and sell assets/property of a debtor to satisfy an unpaid judgment.
The act of filing a writ of execution (writ) is the first step toward instructing the enforcement office to seize and sell the debtor's property.
A creditor may file a writ against a debtor in one or more of the 49 counties or districts (sheriff/enforcement offices) in Ontario.
From the time it is filed and becomes effective, a writ may encumber any land or interest in land presently owned or land that may be purchased in the future by the debtor in the county(ies) or district(s) in which a writ has been filed.
The effect of a writ is limited to the jurisdiction(s) in which it is filed. For example, a writ filed with the Sheriff of the City of Toronto does not have any effect on real or personal property located within the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of Peel. If a writ is to be enforced or have effect in more than one location, then separate writs must be issued by the court and filed with each applicable sheriff/enforcement office.
The sheriff (enforcement office) is required by section 10(1) of the Execution Act to enter all filed and renewed writs into an electronic database that is to be maintained by the sheriff as an index of writs of execution. The Writs System acts as the electronic database/index for the sheriff/enforcement office for this purpose and satisfies any statutory obligation in this regard.
Similar to the land registration system in Ontario, writs of execution were historically filed and maintained exclusively in paper form. A copy of the filed writ would also be provided to the Land Titles office for their records and to make the writ of execution available for searching in accordance with various land statutes. Searches for the existence of writs of execution issued against a party could only be conducted by reviewing relevant writs of execution on-site at the enforcement or land registry office in each jurisdiction in which property was believed to be owned by such party. As search activities became increasingly time-consuming, labour-intensive and a drain on government resources, the Ministry of the Attorney General created the original Writs System in the early 1990’s to provide a means of maintaining and searching for Writs, electronically.
In 1997, the Ministry of the Attorney General entered into an agreement with Teranet to take over the Writs System and build on its experience with electronic land registration in Ontario to adapt its systems and applications to eliminate the duplication of records maintained in both the enforcement office and the LRO and to consolidate the local writs databases into one centralized location.
Today, local searches of the Writs System can be performed at any enforcement office of MAG by its staff, but only with respect to writs of execution filed in the local jurisdiction. Teranet offers enhanced services at any Land Registry Office (LRO) through Teranet’s ROSCO terminals or remotely through Teraview that allow for writ searches across all sheriff/enforcement office jurisdictions.
End users can also access services through Teranet’s Teranet eXpress website to perform searches of the Writs System by enforcement office or across the province and can issue and file writs of execution electronically.