By Laura Keil
As of April 30, 2021, the public is now able to search British Columbia’s Land Owner Transparency Registry—the first-of-its-kind in Canada—to learn the names, home cities and citizenship of people who own B.C. properties via trusts and corporations.
In the past, the people or shareholders behind numbered companies could buy and sell real estate without their names or nationalities being public. The Province brought in new legislation in 2019 after the Expert Panel on Money
Laundering in B.C. report said that “disclosing beneficial ownership is the single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering,” which the report estimates has raised housing prices by 5 per cent in B.C. alone. The registry is also aimed at reducing tax fraud.
“We launched the Land Owner Transparency Registry to put an end to hidden ownership of real estate in B.C. and allow us to know who really owns real estate in our province,” said Sonia Lowe, Communications Manager for the BC Ministry of Finance. “For years, criminals used shell companies, trusts and partnerships to hide who really owns property in B.C., which left our housing sector open to tax evasion, fraud and money laundering. This illegal money laundering distorted the price of housing.”
Beneficial ownership means anyone who owns a significant number of shares, or who has indirect ownership through a trustee.
The public can search the database using a parcel identifier (PID) or the name of a person. A search by a person’s name will show their interests in land where they are a reporting body, interest holder or settlor. A search by PID will show the persons who are identified as reporting bodies, interest holders or the entity that establishes a trust.
The public will not be able to search any information about individuals who are under 19 years of age, are deemed incapable of managing their own financial affairs, have an approved application to omit (if the person’s health or safety is at risk) or have been registered in the LOTR system for 90 days or less. The 90-day delay gives the reporting body enough time to notify people whose names will be included in the registry, Lowe says. It also gives time for vulnerable interest holders to submit an application to omit or obscure information, before it becomes available to the public.
Similar to land title search fees, a fee of $5.00 per search applies.
Not all information will be public April 30th. Existing reporting bodies, interest holders or settlors have until November 30th, 2021 to file to the registry.
A 2016 report by Transparency International Canada indicated nearly one-third of the 100 most valuable residential properties in Metro Vancouver were owned by shell companies. To learn more visit landtransparency.ca or to search the registry visit this link on or after April 30th: apps.ltsa.ca/iam/login