In the coming months, a new land owner transparency registry, a fundamental requirement under the Land Owner Transparency Act, is expected to come into effect in B.C. The public disclosure of ownership information in the registry forms part of the British Columbia government’s strategy to improve housing affordability by increasing transparency of property ownership.
In many cases, the legal owner of a property is also the beneficial owner; the person who reports any income generated on the property. However, there are times when the owner shown on title is not reflective of the true owner of the property but is simply holding the property in trust for the beneficial owner. For example, an individual may decide to have a corporation registered on title as the legal owner (for liability protection) but remain the beneficial owner in all other respects.
Once the land owner transparency registry comes into effect, all individuals, corporations, trusts and other legal entities that own a beneficial interest in any land in B.C., either directly or indirectly, must disclose specific personal information not previously collected. Corporations, trusts and partnerships will be required to report the personal information of all individuals who, directly or indirectly, exercise at least 10 per cent voting control over that entity.
Required information will include the beneficial owners’
- Full name
- Social Insurance Number
- Date of birth
- Residential address
A portion of this information will be publicly searchable. As of the date of this publication, the government has not released details regarding what information will be publicly available and what will remain accessible by the government only.
Failure to disclose the information required by the registry may result in fines of up to $100,000 or 15 per cent of the assessed value of the property, whichever is greater.
Property owners are strongly encouraged to review their real estate portfolio, identify the beneficial interest holders and make any necessary disclosures to ensure compliance with the act. Consultation with a real estate lawyer will ensure compliance with the act and avoid risking potential penalties.
Ravi Patel is an associate in the Business Law Group at Watson Goepel LLP in Vancouver. He advises clients in the areas of corporate and commercial law, real estate law and on estate matters including mergers & acquisitions, conveyancing of property and estate and tax planning.