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B.C.'s New Landowner Disclosure Requirements - What You Need to Know

Commercial Real Estate Law

Author: Dharam Dhillon

1.  Background – What is LOTA

To address issues around anonymous land ownership in British Columbia, the provincial government passed into law the new Land Owner Transparency Act and the related Land Owner Transparency Regulation (collectively, “LOTA”) which will become effective on November 30, 2020.  LOTA facilitates the creation and operation of the Land Owner Transparency Registry (the “Registry”), a publicly searchable database mandated by the provincial government to end anonymous land ownership in B.C. The Registry will not replace the existing B.C. land title registry but will be a separate, corresponding registry that provides specific disclosure regarding direct, indirect and beneficial interests in real property located in B.C.

2.   Impact on BC Landowners

An interest in land is defined broadly under LOTA and includes:

Reporting bodies fall into the following categories:

The above are subject to certain limited exceptions, such as corporations owned by Indigenous nations, statutory authorities and certain financial institutions.

3.   What Must Be Disclosed?

The Transparency Report must disclose the reporting body’s interest holders. An interest holder is:

With respect to the interest holders of a reporting body, the Transparency Report must disclose:

Additional disclosure required by landowners in British Columbia in a Transparency Report varies by reporting body as follows:

Note that the information made publicly available in the Registry will not include all of the information that a Transparency Report requires. Sensitive information such as an individual’s social insurance number will not be made available to the public through the Registry.  It is worth further noting that certain sections of LOTA related to public access have effectively delayed the public search function of the Registry until April 30, 2021.

The Transparency Report required under LOTA is entirely separate from and in addition to any obligation that a reporting body may have to prepare a transparency register under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia) or a register of individuals with significant control under the Canada Business Corporations Act, despite the fact that the disclosable information under these statutes may overlap.  In particular, we note that a person who is a corporate interest holder under LOTA may not be a “significant individual” under the relevant corporate statute, and therefore the disclosure requirements under LOTA are in some respects broader than those in corporate statutes. Please refer to our previous correspondence on the required corporate transparency registers, or contact us to better understand the differences.

4.   Consequences of Non-Compliance with LOTA

LOTA contains various enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with its requirements. Depending on various factors, repercussions for non-compliance may include a fine of up to the greater of (a) $50,000, and (b) 15% of the assessed value of a property to which the Transparency Declaration or Transparency Report relates.

5.   Conclusion

The requirements of LOTA are very broad in application and technical in nature. With few exceptions, the requirements apply to all land in the province.  Furthermore, as mentioned above, the consequences for non-compliance can be significant. Accordingly, it is important to (a) be wary of the fact that there are new requirements relating to real property ownership in British Columbia, and (b) ensure that you are in strict compliance with these requirements to avoid substantial repercussions.

Should you require any assistance in understanding your obligations given your circumstances, please feel free to reach out for specific legal advice.  We will continue to provide updates regarding this topic as they become available.

Contact: Dharam Dhillon, phone: 604.891.1153, email: ddhillon@meplaw.ca

This bulletin is intended as a summary only and should not be regarded or relied upon as advice to any specific client or regarding any specific situation.

MICHAEL, EVRENSEL & PAWAR LLP