British Columbia to Launch Beneficial Owner Registry for Property
03 Apr 2019

The government of Canada’s British Columbia introduced legislation Tuesday that would require corporations, trusts and other legal entities to name the true owners of real estate they currently own or are in the process of buying.

If implemented, the Landowner Transparency Act would create the country’s first public registry of property owners as part of a 2018 plan to expand affordable housing in the province. The measure would also answer reports that money launderers and tax dodgers have exploited relatively loose property laws in the province and the country at large, British Columbia (BC) officials said.

Under the legislation, land-owning companies and other legal entities would have to disclose “all existing property owners with beneficial ownership” at the time the title is legally transferred, and then report subsequent changes of ownership going forward. Infractions could incur fines of up to CAD $100,000 or 15 percent of the assessed value of the property in question.

The proposal would task BC’s Land Title and Survey Authority with administering the registry, according to an outline of the plan.

“For years, the previous government did not act while people used numbered companies, trusts and partnerships to hide who really owns property in BC,” said Minister of Finance Carole James, in a statement. “Their decisions led to BC’s international reputation as a place to anonymously invest wealth and left the real estate sector open to tax evasion, fraud and money laundering.”

The move follows a 2016 report by Transparency International Canada that found that nearly a third of the most valuable homes in Greater Vancouver had been purchased through shell companies.

Photo: Dave Olson

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