Q&As about the Registry set to launch November 30
BC’s Land Owner Transparency Act (LOTA) comes into effect on November 30 of this year. The first act of its kind in Canada, LOTA allows for the creation of a publicly searchable registry of information on individuals that hold interests in land – directly or indirectly – through corporations, trusts and partnerships.
The Act is part of the government’s plan to address concerns about housing affordability in BC. Introduced in the 2018 budget, it received royal assent in May of 2019 and comes into effect this year. The Act was implemented as part of an initiative to end the hidden ownership of land. It is expected that LOTA and its Registry (LOTR) will help to combat the use of these entities for money laundering, tax fraud and tax evasion purposes.
So how does this differ from Land Title Office records?
The Land Title Office records registered ownership of real property interests. The Land Owner Transparency Registry (LOTR) will record indirect ownership of interests in land (such as shareholdings in a corporation, rights/interests in a partnership and beneficial interests of trust beneficiaries). Essentially the Registry is a second database of land ownership records that will operate parallel to, but separate from, Land Title.
Who will operate this database and who can access the information?
The British Columbia Land Title and Survey Authority will oversee the database.
As of April 30, 2021, the public can search the Registry and get partial information about ownership interests in land. Birth dates and social insurance numbers will not be publicly accessible. Only those defined as a regulator, a taxing authority or a law enforcement entity will have access to complete information about reporting bodies and interest holders. To see who makes up those entities, visit landtransparency.ca.
How does this affect realtors and their clients?
Starting November 30, buyer clients must be made aware of the extra reporting requirements. The actual filing is something for which legal professionals will be responsible.
For transactions closing after November 30, realtors will need to:
- Advise clients to speak to a legal professional about these requirements early on to ensure ample time for the necessary information to be gathered and filed. (If a buyer is a corporation, partnership or trust with shareholders outside of the country, this period could take as long as a month.)
- Plan for closing periods that allow for legal professionals to fulfill the transparency declaration and determine if a transparency report must be filed.
- Tell clients who require transparency reports to speak to their legal professionals to understand the timelines and what can be expected.
When does one need to file under LOTA?
Three main situations cause an obligation to file under LOTA: 1) the registration of a new interest in land at a land title office; 2) pre-existing interests in land; 3) changes in interest holdings in land.
What are the penalties for noncompliance?
Not complying can have significant consequences. Improper or failed submission of appropriate documents means the LTO has the authority to refuse registration of an interest in land and financial penalties would incur.
To find out more about the new Act, including filing, searching and its enforcement, visit landtransparency.ca.