Complete Real Estate Standards (PDF package – current to April 9, 2024) 


Never before have there been greater professional demands on the real estate lawyer. Lawyers are expected to have ever more efficient processes. There are constant demands for lawyers’ time from all of the participants in a real estate transaction – clients, agents, lenders, surveyors and title insurers. We need time to review agreements, draft documents, review title abstracts, prepare opinions, deal with title objections, and supervise staff. Once the closing has been successfully completed, the demands on our time do not end – there are the reports to clients, lenders, and the fulfilment of undertakings to other lawyers. At the heart of all these demands, the real estate lawyer daily strives to achieve a balance between the business efficiencies sought to be achieved, and the fulfilment of professional obligations.

In 1994 the Standards Committee of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society unveiled Practice Standards for real property transactions in Nova Scotia. Those Standards were declared to be a “living” document which would change with the changes in practice. The change to real estate practice with the implementation of the Land Registration Act (LRA) is one such change. Yet in a way, the LRA is but an embodiment of the way in which real estate lawyers have served the public for over 250 years. Over time as land was conveyed, lawyers carefully reviewed the state of title and in so doing became the weavers of the historical fabric preserved in the Land Registration Office. It is that fabric that is to be enhanced in the new system. We have been the keepers of the old system and are afforded the privilege of having a unique role in the new one to ensure that the quality and integrity of information we have so long worked to improve, is preserved for the future.

One of the underlying tenets of professional responsibility in the land title system is the exercise of professional judgment. This is not a new responsibility, but it is one that bears a careful re-examination and review in light of the LRA. These Professional Standards provide guidance and clarification of the principal elements inherent in the exercise of professional judgment. They are not confined, as in the past, to being a reflection of existing practices, but also incorporate elements required for lawyers practising under the Land Registration Act. At the same time, the Standards are intended to be a practical tool to assist lawyers in the demands of their practices to achieve the balance sought. Access to common law authorities and academic and conference materials will be maintained so that there is always current information available to assist with interpretation and application.

These Standards could not have been developed without the concerted effort of many and the continued work of the Committee, whose members provide the benefit of their years of experience and their varied practices to support the development of the Standards.

As lawyers, we may be widely divergent in the ways in which we exercise professional judgment. However, it is the hope of the Committee that as we move forward, these Standards will be “live” enough to help us respond in a professional fashion to the demands on our practices in these changing times and to ensure that neither the quality of our practices nor our ethics will be compromised.

Note: Preface amended March 21, 2018


Part I – General Principles of Certifying Title

Part II – Extent of Title and Access

Part III – Essential Elements Respecting Title

Part IV – Conveyancing Practice

Part V – Off Title Inquiries and Miscellaneous Matters

Practice Tools