Purchasing and Selling Property
Title – Joint Tenancy or Tenancy in Common
If more than one person is to be registered on title to a property, they may be registered as either joint tenants or tenants in common.
The basic difference between ownership of property by way of joint tenancy and tenancy in common is that in the event of the death of a joint tenant, the one-half interest of the deceased person automatically passes to the survivor. In the event of the death of a tenant in common, the share of the deceased person passes to his or her beneficiaries as part of his or her estate. All adults should have a will and this is particularly important if you choose to hold title as Tenants in Common.
Prior to closing, we will require your instructions as to whether you intend to be registered as tenants in common or joint tenants. If only one person is on title this issue does not arise.
Please contact us if you have any further questions with respect to the differences between owning property as joint tenants or tenants in common.
When you purchase a strata lot, the Strata Property Act applies.
As an owner of a strata lot, you own the airspace within the boundaries of the walls, floor, and ceiling of your unit. The land and the building itself (the “common areas”) are owned by you and the other owners of strata lots in your complex.
Together you and the other strata lot owners form a strata corporation. The strata corporation is like a small government. It taxes you (via maintenance fees), it makes laws (via the creation of bylaws) and, like any other government, it can impose penalties for failure to comply with its laws. If you are selling your unit, you must ensure that all monies that are owing by you to the Strata Corporation have been paid in full.
Before a sale of your strata lot can be finalized you will require a “Form F” certificate from the strata council confirming that no monies are owing by you to the strata corporation.
As a strata lot owner you have the right to attend meetings of the strata corporation and to vote on matters of business. You may wish to keep informed of the issues before the strata corporation and exercise your voting rights*. (*If you mortgage your Strata Lot, your mortgage company may vote for you in certain circumstances). In particular, the bylaws of the strata corporation are very important. They may restrict the use of your strata lot with respect to rentals, children, pets, and other matters. If the strata corporation has not passed any bylaws, then those contained in the Strata Property Act will apply.
Also, you should keep in mind that strata bylaws are susceptible to change. Your interests may thus be affected and neither the strata corporation nor any of the owners will be responsible for any loss you might suffer as a result of the change in the bylaws.
Part of your strata maintenance fees will be applied toward the payment of premiums to provide insurance for the land and buildings, including public liability insurance. You should ensure that the coverage is adequate: if a claim is made against the strata corporation which exceeds the amount covered, all members of the strata corporation are personally responsible for the payment of the claim to the extent it exceeds the insurance coverage.
Purchase through a corporation
Considering whether to purchase property through a corporation is often a tax-driven question. The purchaser must consider the drawbacks to a corporate purchase, including the following:
- Depending on the marginal tax rate of an individual, the tax rate on income derived from property may be higher for a corporation.
- The capital gains tax rate of a corporation may be higher than that of an individual.
- If the corporation is not a British Columbia Corporation, a mortgage lender may require that the company be registered in British Columbia.
- If a non-resident corporation is not required to register as an extra-provincial corporation in British Columbia before completing a transaction, a Certificate of Good Standing will be required from the incorporating jurisdiction, along with an opinion letter from a solicitor in the incorporating jurisdiction, in order to get mortgage financing in British Columbia.
- A corporation which purchases property must be maintained as long as the property is owned by the corporation.
- Even though the property will be owned by a company, the mortgage lender will generally require personal guarantees from the principals of the corporation.
- If there are losses from the property, those losses cannot offset personal income tax.
Some of the advantages of purchase through a corporation include:
- If the principals of the company die, there is no change of ownership of the property, which means that no probate fees will be incurred on the property, only on the change in ownership of the shares. If the shares of the company are held outside of British Columbia they will be exempt from the probate fees imposed in conjunction with a change of ownership of the shares.
- If the company’s only asset is the property, sale of the property may be effected through sale of the shares of the company, avoiding payment of the Property Transfer Tax and the Goods and Services Tax.
If you intend to finance your purchase by a loan secured by a mortgage, it will be necessary for you to advise us of the name of the lender who will provide the loan and the lawyer who will be acting for the lender. If we are asked to act on behalf of the lender as well as for you, we are required by the Law Society of British Columbia to advise you that you both have different interests and recommend that each of you have independent representation.
If after providing you with this advice you still wish us to act for you, we will require that you and the lender execute a consent, agreeing that should a conflict arise which cannot be resolved, we will not continue to act for either party and both parties will be required to obtain independent legal advice. As well, please note that in these circumstances information received from one party with respect to this matter cannot be treated as confidential as far as the other party is concerned.
Taxes and Fees
Property Transfer Tax (PTT)
The Provincial Government levies a tax on all transfers of real estate (with the exception of some limited exemptions for first time purchasers of principal residences and newly built homes). There is a tax of 1% on the first $200,000 of the purchase price and of 2% on the balance of the purchase price over $200,000 up to and including $2,000,000. There is an additional 3% tax on the portion of the purchase price greater than $2,000,000 and, if the property is residential, a further 2% on the portion of the purchase price that exceeds $3,000,000. This tax is payable on the completion date of the purchase.
Additional Property Transfer Tax
An Additional Property Transfer Tax is levied on all transfers of residential property to foreign entities (individual or corporate) within the Capital Regional District, Fraser Valley Regional District, Greater Vancouver Regional District, Regional District of Central Okanagan, or Regional District of Nanaimo. The rate for property transfers to foreign buyers which are registered after February 21st, 2018 is 20% of the purchase price. Proportionate shares transferred to a foreign entity are similarly taxed at this rate.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
A 5% Goods and Services Tax is payable on the net price of new residential properties and substantially renovated residential properties. GST is also payable on property converted from commercial to residential use.
Speculation and Vacancy Tax
The Speculation and Vacancy Tax is designed to target foreign investors who own residences in B.C. but don’t pay taxes here. If you live in your home year-round, or if you rent your property for at least three months of the year, the tax will not apply to you. The Speculation and Vacancy Tax applicable rate is 0.5% of the previous year’s assessed property value for Canadian citizens, and 2% for foreign owners. It is imperative that you opt out of this tax every year if you own a property, even if it is your principal residence. Failure to do so will result in a levy of the maximum 2%, regardless of your property’s status.
Empty Homes Tax (Vacancy Tax)
The Empty Homes Tax applies only to residential properties in the City of Vancouver. People who own empty homes are required to pay 1% of the property’s assessed value from the previous year. Properties deemed empty will be subject to a tax of 1% of the property’s assessed value. You are required to submit a declaration each year to exempt yourself from this tax.
Municipal Property Taxes
These taxes are generally due in July each year (only properties in the City of Vancouver have an advance billing due date in February). The date for payment of utilities (i.e. water and sewer) varies according to the municipality. Some municipalities include separate utilities, dyking, or other charges. The tax assessment is mailed to the property address in June. Confirm with the property manager that they will not be paying the property taxes for you (they do not usually do so). There is a late payment penalty levied on all tax assessments that are not paid by the due date. If the property is your principal residence, there is a grant available. The grant form is generally included with your tax assessment.
We do not normally make adjustments with respect to gas, telephone, cable vision, electricity or other similar matters and we suggest that you contact the appropriate utility offices prior to the completion date to arrange for service.
Zoning and By-Laws
We do not normally confirm:
(a) municipal zoning;
(b) compliance with environmental legislation or regulations;
(c) compliance with applicable land use regulations or local health, sewer and drainage, fire and building bylaws, all of which may affect the use of the Property;
(d) any possible heritage designation of buildings on the Property; or
(e) municipal or local improvement assessments or charges which do not appear on property tax notices;
(f) that suites on the property are legal or illegal;
(g) that buildings comply with zoning and set-back requirements; and
(h) that proper permits have been issued for all buildings.
We recommend that you consider whether these matters are relevant to the Property and your intended use thereof. If you wish to confirm these matters, please contact the relevant local authorities. If you instruct us, we can conduct these inquiries on your behalf, but of course, our fees and disbursements would increase accordingly. Unless you have stipulated for special contractual conditions, your agreement will not contain any promises by the present owner as to the quality or condition of any buildings you are buying.
Non-Residency in Canada
Additional Taxes for Foreign Buyers: Additional Property Transfer Tax
In addition, as a foreign buyer, you must be aware of the Additional Property Transfer Tax, which is discussed under the “taxes” heading. The rate for property transfers to foreign buyers which are registered after February 21st, 2018 is 20% of the purchase price.
Required Holdbacks for Non-Resident Sellers
The Income Tax Act (Canada) provides that when a seller is not a resident of Canada, the buyer is required to deduct a withholding tax from the seller’s sale proceeds and remit it directly to the CRA, or ensure that the seller has obtained a Certificate of Compliance. The withholding tax is levied at a 25% rate for non-depreciable property and 50% for depreciable property and property held as inventory. If you are aware that the Seller is not a resident of Canada, please advise us immediately so that we may take steps to avoid any tax consequences to you which may arise as a result of the Seller’s non-residency.
Change of Address
You will have instructed your solicitor to record your name(s) and address on title to the property. The address shown on title is very important as it is the address to which property tax notices will be sent by the City or Municipality, and the address to which important notices from the Land Title Office will be sent. In the event you move but retain ownership of this property, you should notify both the Land Title Office and the City or Municipality of your change of address.
We will contact you when the necessary documents to complete the purchase of the Property have been prepared and we will arrange a time for you to come to our offices to sign them. Please bring at least one piece of photo identification (eg. Driver’s License or Passport) and two other pieces of major identification including signatures with you.
In accordance with Law Society guidelines, the balance of money required from you to complete your purchase must be in the form of a certified cheque or bank draft.
Please note that your transaction may close at any time during the day of completion. All transfers and other documents relating to the transaction must be registered at the Land Title Office (which closes at 3 p.m.) before you become owner and before funds are sent to the Vendor’s solicitor or notary. When the seller’s solicitor receives funds you will be entitled to keys to the premises.
Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee a specific time of day when closing will be complete and accordingly you should not make inflexible plans for moving times if completion and possession are to occur on the same date.
Please ensure that you are available on the day of closing, and let us know where you can be reached.
Please contact your realtor to obtain the keys to the property or have him or her advise you as to where you can pick up the keys after closing.