The BC Government has released a white paper which includes proposed draft legislation called the Land Owner Transparency Act (the “Act”). The government is accepting feedback on the white paper until August 19, 2018.

The Act would create a public registry of beneficial ownership (“interests”) of land. Any corporation, partner of a partnership, and trustee of a trust not exempted from the legislation (defined as a “Reporting Body”) would be obliged to make reasonable efforts to obtain, and must then report, information about corporate interest holders, partnership interest holders, and beneficiaries of trusts (“interest-holders”). This obligation would include obtaining relevant records confirming this information.

All Reporting Bodies will be required to report on a transitional date to be set by regulation, to “populate” the registry.  Thereafter, the obligation to report would arise on registration of an interest in land, and on a Reporting Body becoming aware of a change in beneficial ownership.  This specifically includes changes in ownership of 25% or more of the shares of corporations or other entities owning interests in land.  A very substantial proportion of land holdings in BC will be affected.

Authorities would have access to detailed information on interest-holders and the nature of their interest. The public would be allowed to search by name or parcel of land, on paying a fee, and determine who the interest-holders are, and to access the name, citizenship, and city of permanent residence of any individual interest-holder.

The only exceptions to the availability of interest-holders’ information to the public are for minors, individuals without legal capacity, and those who make a special application on the grounds of personal safety.

The proposed Act would create significant and ongoing reporting obligations for all non-individuals having legal ownership of land, and significantly limit the privacy of individual beneficiaries, shareholders and partners. It is also anticipated that this registry may be a precursor to the Property Transfer Tax being applied to transfers of beneficial ownership in land.

We recommend that if you have concerns about how this proposal will affect you and your industry, you provide feedback to the government before the August 19, 2018 deadline.