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What are dower rights and how might they impact your sale?

What are dower rights and how might they impact your sale?

This might seem like a bit of a dry topic but it’s an important one! If not handled properly it can delay your sale or worse, cause the offer to become null and void even before the buyers remove their conditions!

So what is dower? Essentially the purpose of dower is to protect the rights of a spouse who is not on title for the property. It ensures that the home cannot be sold without their knowledge and agreement.

When does dower apply? There are very specific conditions that must be met in order for dower to apply.

  1. There must be only one person on title for the property.
  2. And the person on title must be legally married.
  3. And either the registered owner or the registered spouse must have resided on the property at any point since the marriage. This can include as little as one day!

What happens when dower rights apply to a sale? Real estate agents and lawyers deal with this regularly. It can be handled very smoothly as long as it is handled correctly from the outset. At the time of listing the property for sale the non-owning spouse completes a Dower Consent and Acknowledgement form. This form must be notarized to ensure there is no undue influence. When an offer is received, a second Dower Consent and Aknowledgement form must be signed and again this must be notarized.

How could dower rights impact the sale of a property?

  • If a seller forgets that they or their spouse had resided on the property for a couple of days at one point (this is frequently the case for an investment property) and therefore did not obtain Dower Consent, the non-owning spouse could contest the sale.
  • The timing of Dower Consent is also critical. The purchase contract stipulates a date by which Dower Consent must be obtained. If the seller does not provide the signed Dower Consent to the buyer by a specific date, the buyer has the right to walk away from the transaction.

What should you do if you think this might impact you?  

  • If you’re a seller, speak to your lawyer prior to beginning the sale process to ensure there are no potential speed bumps.
  • If you’re a non-owning spouse who believes you have rights to a property that is currently for sale, you should definitely speak with your lawyer regarding your rights and get advice on how to proceed.
  • And if you’re unsure if any of this applies to you, talk to your real estate agent. We can help you determine whether or not this might apply to you, show you the forms required and walk you through your next steps.

The proper handling of dower rights is just one reason why working with a real estate professional is critical to ensure a smooth transaction. Whether you have a question on this topic or any other please reach out to your favourite SCHMIDT agent at any time. We are at your service and always happy to help!

Here are two helpful resources for more info on Dower Rights:

Alberta Dower Act

Rights to your home under the Dower Act

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