Land Owner Transparency Registry
Before November 30, 2022 all landowners must meet with a notary or lawyer to complete a Transparency Declaration indicating all persons having an interest in your property. Under the Land Ownership Transparency Act, the law recognizes “beneficial owners” as opposed to legal owners. Therefore, when you purchase a home and decide to register your wife and yourself on the title as Tenants in Common then each of you has legal ownership of the property. However, if in that same purchase, your wife has verbally agreed to hold a share of the home for her mother, then your wife may become a trustee of a (relevant) trust who holds an interest in the home for her mother who is a “beneficial owner” of your property.
A main point of the Act is to identify hidden owners (or “beneficial owners”) during the registration of your title at the Land Title and Survey Authority of B.C. Under the Act, all owners of land must complete a transparency declaration in the following circumstances: first, you own property that has not been registered in the Land Ownership Transparency Registry (the “Registry”); you acquired an interest in land; or there were changes to or in the nature of ownership for the property.
Filing a Transparency Declaration
In British Columbia, the law provides that a corporation is also a person having the power to buy, sell and conduct business. Consequently, a person or corporation may be a beneficial owner (of a relevant trust) if any of the following apply:
- the person’s interest in land does not occur solely due to the passing of another person;
- the person has the power to revoke a (relevant) trust and receive the interest in land;
- the person is a corporate interest holder for a (relevant) corporation having a power of a beneficial interest in land or a power to revoke the (relevant) trust and receive the interest in land;
- the person has an interest in land, right or ability that results from the statute;
The types of interest in land addressed in the Act including the following:
- the right to sell, transfer or divest land as an inheritance to others (enjoyed by many homeowners as) an estate in fee simple;
- the right to occupy land under a lease having a term of more than 10 years;
- the right to occupy land or require a transfer in fee simple under an agreement for sale; or
- any other right that is prescribed by the statute.
When you make an application to register an interest in land, a Transparency Declaration must be completed providing information on each interest holder (who is always an individual) as follows: his or her full name; whether he or she is Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada; and, whether his or her principal residence (or “home”) is located either in or outside of Canada.
Filing a Transparency Report
If an interest holder is a Reporting body due to being a relevant corporation, trustee of a relevant trust, or a partner of relevant partnership, then a Transparency Report must be completed along with your Transparency Declaration.
All Reporting Bodies, under s. 15 of the Act, must file a file a Transparency Report detailing any indirect or beneficial owners of land. Under the Act, interest holders who were previously able to conceal their indirect or beneficial ownership through bare trusts, holding corporations or other arrangements are now legally compelled to disclose their interest in a property as well as provide detailed information about themselves.
Reporting bodies must update their records in the following circumstances: changes in interest holders; a registered owner becomes a reporting body; a registered owner ceases to be a Reporting Body; or, there occurs a need to complete or correct information in a Transparency Report.
Do you Need to File a Transparency Declaration?
- You must file a Transparency Declaration if you own an “interest in land” in British Columbia. In that declaration, you must declare any person or persons having a “beneficial interest” in your property.
- You must file a Transparency Report if “an interest holder” qualifies as a Reporting Body.
- You must meet with a notary or lawyer to file a Transparency Declaration.
What are the Fines for Contravening the Act?
You need to know that there are substantial fines for contravening the Act. First, an individual who commits an offence may be fined not more than $25,000 (or 15% of the assessed value of the property). Second, a person, who is not an individual, who commits an offence may be fined not more than $50,000 (or 15% of the assessed value of your property). Under the Interpretation Act, a “person” includes a corporation, partnership or party, and the personal or other legal representatives of a person.