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Family ‘thrilled’ scammers’ tool worth $1B across Ontario will be wiped out

An Ontario family says they’re “thrilled” the provincial government has moved to wipe out a tool used so often by scammers that it has been used to claim some $1 billion worth of value from properties across the province.

Melissa Irons says her elderly father-in-law, Karl Hoffman, would have loved to live long enough to see the government eliminate Notices of Security Interest (NOSIs) after they were used 11 times against him and his Bowmanville, Ont., home.

“I was thrilled. I was astonished,” Irons said in an interview. “It’s unfortunate that Karl is not here today to hear this great news, but I’m sure it would be a great relief.”

Irons was reacting to the announcement by the Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery Todd McCarthy that he would table legislation in the spring to ban NOSIs.

“We have decided to move forward with complete abolition of notices of security interest against the land registry system both going forward and retroactively,” McCarthy said in an interview with CTV News.

He said about $1 billion in NOSI debt is largely the subject of criminal activity.

“That total is quite a large number, and that means that criminal activity is being perpetuated. So we need to address that with a retroactive effect to the legislation,” he said.

A NOSI is a tool, like a lien, that a company uses to secure collateral on a fixture, such as an air conditioner or an HVAC system, that they own but sits inside someone else’s property. The homeowner can’t sell the property until it’s paid out.

But there are major problems with how it’s put into practice, including no serious effort to verify that a NOSI’s value represents how much the equipment is worth, said Dennis Crawford, a lawyer who has fought NOSIs.

“There is a loophole, which it’s too easy to register one,” Crawford said. “They’re putting in equipment in a house that might be worth $1,500, but registering liens for $15,000. Orders of magnitude more than what the equipment is worth.”

Hoffman had 11 NOSIs registered against his property as people he called in court fraudsters returned again and again.

His family says they were taking advantage of Hoffman, who had a brain aneurysm that made him lose his short-term memory.

“Karl believed everyone was good. He believed people were helpful and were trying to help him,” Irons said.

But Hoffman was “marked” and his property was the target, his lawyer Greg Weedon said in court documents.

“He was the victim of a fraudulent scheme targeted at the elderly. By July 2021, he had 11 notice of security interests registered against his property, all of which were registered under false or fraudulent pretenses,” Hoffman’s court filing says.

“It’s really sad to know that there are people out there doing this to so many people. It’s disheartening,” Irons said.

The government’s declaration, if they follow through, would mean that those NOSIs would be wiped away without any legal action required.

The announcement came after the Ontario NDP proposed legislation that would ban certain NOSIs — though it wouldn’t succeed without the support of the governing PC majority. 

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