This article was originally published on October 28, 2021 and was updated on November 3, 2021 to reflect the extension of the filing deadline discussed herein announced by the government of British Columbia on November 2, 2021.
A brief overview of LOTA
The Land Owner Transparency Act ("LOTA" or the "Act") came into force in British Columbia on November 30, 2020. The Act impacts all parties who own an interest in land, regardless of whether such interest is in the form of registered on-title ownership or unregistered off-title beneficial ownership. Introduced as part of the provincial government's campaign to end hidden ownership in British Columbia, LOTA and its regulations mandate filing transparency declarations and reports in specific situations. Certain information collected from these filings regarding off-title beneficial owners is publicly searchable in a newly formed database called the Land Owner Transparency Registry.
Existing owners: November 30, 2022 transparency report filing deadline
LOTA mandates, among other circumstances where disclosure is required, that any reporting body who was the registered owner of an interest in land on November 30, 2020 must file a transparency report in respect of such ownership interest by November 30, 2022.
A reporting body is defined under LOTA as being a relevant corporation, a trustee of a relevant trust or a partner of a relevant partnership. The definitions of relevant corporation, relevant trust and relevant partnership are extremely broad and the vast majority of corporations, trusts and partnerships will need to file a transparency report by the November 30, 2022 filing deadline if they held a registered interest in land on November 30, 2020. There are, however, a limited number of exclusions to what constitutes a relevant corporation, relevant trust and relevant partnership and you should consult with a legal professional for assistance in determining whether your entity constitutes a reporting body.
Reporting bodies must not only disclose information about themselves in the transparency report, but also about individuals who are the indirect owners of the interest in land. The Act refers to these individuals as interest holders and the information that must be disclosed about them in the transparency report includes the individual's primary identification information, date of birth, last known address, social insurance number and tax number, as well as whether or not the individual is resident in Canada for the purposes of the Income Tax Act (Canada), the date on which the individual became or ceased to be an interest holder and a description of how the individual is an interest holder.
*The provincial government announced on November 2, 2021 that this filing deadline, which had originally been set as November 30, 2021 pursuant to section 19 of the Land Owner Transparency Regulation (B.C. Reg. 250/2020), would be extended by one (1) year to November 30, 2022 pursuant to Order in Council No. 600 approved and ordered by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia on November 2, 2021.
Who does not need to file
Any individual who was the registered and beneficial owner of an interest in land on November 30, 2020 and who held that interest solely on such person's own behalf is not required to file a transparency report. Similarly, reporting bodies are not required to file a transparency report if, prior to November 30, 2022, the interest in land they held on November 30, 2020 is registered in the name of another owner or if the land in respect of which its ownership interest is held is Indigenous land or certain prescribed land.
Filing a transparency report requires the assistance of a legal professional who is registered with myLTSA Enterprise (the "LTSA"). The LTSA fee to file a transparency report is $35.
Other applications made under LOTA also require a filing fee. The LTSA filing fee for an application under section 40 of the Act to omit information in the transparency report if the health or safety of a reporting body or interest holder is at risk will cost $30. The LTSA filing fee for an application made under section 42 of the Act to change or correct information in the transparency report will cost $150.
Under the Regulations, LOTA enforcement officers and officials or employees of the Ministry of Finance are exempt from the fees set out in the Act.
*The filing fees specified herein are current as of the date of publication of this article and are subject to change.
Penalties for non-compliance
Penalties for non-compliance with the November 30, 2022 filing deadline may be significant. Failing to file, or providing false or misleading information in, the required transparency report may attract a fine of up to the greater of (a) $50,000 for a corporation or $25,000 for an individual, and (b) 15% of the assessed value of the property to which the transparency report relates. The Act also sets out other offences which may attract a fine of up to $100,000 for corporations or $50,000 for individuals for non-compliance with the Act.
Taking action as the deadline nears
The legislation is complex and we would be happy to assist you. We encourage everyone who was the owner of an interest in land on November 30, 2020 to seek legal advice in determining whether they are required to file a transparency report by the November 30, 2022 deadline and, if required to do so, to assist with its completion and filing. For inquiries and assistance, please contact your Gowling WLG lawyer or a member of the Gowling WLG commercial real estate team.