416-364-9366 bob@aaron.ca

Ontario loses respected Director of Titles

Sep 16, 2023 | 2023 Toronto Star Property Law Columns

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist

Jeffrey Lem, 61, director of titles, responsible for administering registration of province’s 7.5 million parcels of land, dead at 61.

Jeffrey Lem: His job involved making the land registry system work fairly, seamlessly and efficiently.

Ontario’s real estate community suffered a tragic loss on September 3 with the sudden, unexpected passing of Jeffrey Lem, the provincial Director of Titles since 2014. He was responsible for administering the registration of Ontario’s 7.5 million parcels of land.

Lem’s job involved making the land registry system work fairly, seamlessly and efficiently.

His importance to stakeholders in Ontario cannot be overstated. Veteran real estate lawyer Sidney Troister was a close friend of Lem’s. In an email last week, Troister wrote that Lem was “a brilliant legal writer, commentator and thinker, a great teacher, a generous mentor, a lover of the law.”

“He had a big job, to ensure the integrity and security of our land registry systems and at the same time try to keep thousands of lawyers relatively happy in the application of a complex service.”

Lem was also a frequent contributor to a wide variety of journals and magazines for lawyers, real estate agents, municipal planners and builders. Over the years, he taught real estate law at the Law Society’s bar admission course, Osgoode Hall Law School and various continuing education organizations.

For many years, Lem chaired the Law Society’s popular Six Minute Real Estate Lawyer program – an annual half-day seminar of short talks by real estate lawyers to help them keep up-to-date on the ever-increasing complexities of the law. I worked with Lem as a participating lecturer in many of those programs and was proud to call him a friend. His loss came as a terrible shock.

Toronto’s Reuben Rosenblatt is the dean of real estate lawyers in Ontario. He has been practising and teaching law for 64 years.

He emailed me last week to say, “Jeff Lem was an outstanding and dedicated professional … a frequent speaker and writer on complex legal matters and the Director of Titles. … To me and to so many others he was a great, loving, passionate, generous man. … He was one of our closest friends who we loved without reservation. Our hearts have suffered a great irreplaceable loss.”

Ian Speers is the associate chair of the Landlord and Tenant Board. He wrote me last week to say, “Jeff was blessed with a remarkable ability to underscore arcane bits of real property law with brilliantly apt personal anecdotes… (He) had an infectious passion for real estate law, coupled with a bottomless knowledge base, and powerful intellect. One-on-one commentary when he was on a roll was nothing short of a dissertation and a joy to behold.”

When it came to applying the law to a particularly difficult title problem, Lem could be a stickler but he always acted in the public interest and with the integrity of the registration system topmost in his mind.

But he could also bend the rules when it made sense to do so.

Real estate stakeholders have suffered a great loss and I have lost a friend.

Lem was 61. He leaves behind three children – Christopher, Megan and Caitlin, along with one grandchild. Remembrances may be sent to jeffreywlemmemorial@gmail.com.

May his memory be for a blessing.


Contact Bob Aaron

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.

Aaron & Aaron specialize in Real Estate Law, specifically Sale of Rental, Condominium, Residential, Rural Recreation, Offer to Lease, Commercial, and New Construction

Latest Videos