Important note This content is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as advice or a determination of whether your property will be subject to the Empty Homes Tax. If there is any discrepancy between the information provided here and the provisions of the Vacancy Tax By-law PDF file (183 KB), the latter will prevail.
As a property owner, you will not be subject to the tax if you are eligible for one of the exemptions listed below. If you claim one of the following exemptions, you must be able to provide evidence that validates your declaration if selected for audit.
Note Clarifications and amendments to the Vacancy Tax By-law have been made since it was enacted on November 16, 2016.
Note Documentary evidence is not required at the time of declaration and will only be requested if the property is selected for audit.
Doesn't apply to an uninhabitable property. The condition of the property is considered to be the responsibility of the property owner (even if purchased for land value)
Note For a property or parcel:
Containing a dwelling: a building or combined development and building permit that was issued prior to July 1 of the reference year is required to be eligible for this exemption. The issue date, not the application date, is generally used to determine eligibility. It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that the property is occupied until permits are issued.
Where there is no existing dwelling unit (vacant land) or the parcel has a heritage building on it, the property will not be subject to the tax if:
The building or development permits have been applied for before July 1 in the reference year, and
Your property was undergoing redevelopment or major renovations where permits have been issued and occupied by an arm’s length tenant or subtenant for residential purposes for a combined period of at least six months.
Short description of renovation/ redevelopment project
Your property was unoccupied for more than six months because you, your tenant, or permitted occupant were residing in a hospital, long-term, or supportive care facility and had previously been using the property as a principal residence or occupying it for residential purposes as a tenant.
Note This exemption does not apply:
To second homes that are used occasionally to receive medical care in Vancouver
If additional owners, occupiers, or tenants were resident at the property throughout the reference period
Note This exemption is not allowed for more than two consecutive vacancy reference years unless there is a reasonable expectation that the owner, occupiers, or tenants may be able to return to the residential property, in which case this exemption may be allowed for up to an additional two consecutive vacancy reference periods.
Proof of principal residence prior to entering care
Contact information for care facility
Letter from care facility confirming you, your tenant, or a permitted occupant is undergoing qualifying medical or supportive care
Your principal residence was outside of Greater Vancouver, but you occupied your property for residential purposes for at least six months within the reference period because you were employed full-time in Greater Vancouver. The nature of the employment must require physical presence in Greater Vancouver.
A principal residence is the place where you usually live and make your home and conduct your daily affairs. This is the place where you receive mail and pay your bills from, including utility bills. For the purposes of the Vacancy Tax, an owner can only have one principal residence.
You would use the address of your principal residence for documentation like:
Income tax returns
Your driver’s licence or other pieces of identification
If an owner lives in their residential property for more than six months, but the property is not their principal residence, will the property be subject to the Empty Homes Tax?
Yes. A second home that is used by the owner, or their family members or guests, but is not a principal residence and is not occupied by a tenant or subtenant at least six months of the year, is considered vacant and subject to the tax unless a specific exemption applies.
Are tenants required to be principal residents for the property to be exempt from the tax?
No. For a rented property to be exempt from the tax, it must be occupied by an arm's length tenant or subtenant for residential purposes for at least six months of the year (in periods of 30 or more consecutive days), but the property is not required to be the principal residence of that tenant or subtenant.
Can a married or common law couple have two principal residences that are exempt from the tax?
Yes. Spouses (whether married or common law) can have different principal residences for the purposes of the Empty Homes Tax so long as that is where each individual lives, makes his or her home and conducts his or her daily affairs.
If spouses declare different principal residences, they must be able to provide information or evidence that demonstrates that each property was used in accordance with the by-law’s definition for at least six months of the applicable tax year.
False declarations will result in fines of up to $10,000 per day of the continuing offense, in addition to payment of the tax.
If a property is an owner’s principal residence but they spend more than six months of the year living elsewhere or travelling, will the property be subject to the tax?
No. If a residential property is an owner’s principal residence then it is exempt from the Empty Homes Tax.
The by-law definition of principal residence allows owners to leave their properties for extended periods of time and not be subject to the tax.
To be exempt from the tax, the owner is not required to physically occupy the property for any specific period of time, as long as the property is their principal residence.
If an owner declares the property as their principal residence, they must be able to provide information or evidence that demonstrates that the property was used in accordance with the by-law’s definition for at least six months of the applicable tax year.
If a property is unoccupied for more than six months of the current year, it will be subject to the tax unless an exemption applies.
The property will not be subject to the tax if it is not the principal residence of the owner, but is the principal residence of their family member or friend for at least six months of the current year.
The tax will apply if a property is:
Not a principal residence or not rented for at least six months of the current year (in periods of 30 or more consecutive days)
Used only periodically by the owner or their guests
Your principal residence is outside of Greater Vancouver, but you occupied your property for residential purposes for at least six months because you were employed full-time in Greater Vancouver. The nature of the employment must require physical presence in Greater Vancouver.
A property is not subject to the tax if a property is undergoing major renovations, construction, or redevelopment that causes the property to be vacant for six months where:
Building permits have been issued by July 1 of the reference period
The renovation or redevelopment work is being diligently carried out in the opinion of the Chief Building Officer or their delegate
A property is subject to the tax if no permits have been issued for major renovations or redevelopment.
Note Minor renovations do not qualify for an exemption.
There are many types of renovations that may make occupancy unsafe or impractical while work is underway. However, very few of these will require the home to be unoccupied for six months; rather, the vast majority of renovation projects can be completed in less than six months’ time.
If a renovation project can be completed in under six months, the home must either:
Continue to be the principal residence of the owner, a friend, or family member
Rented out (in periods of 30 or more consecutive days) for at least six months of the tax year to be exempt from the tax
A property is not subject to the tax if it is vacant land with no existing dwelling unit that is undergoing redevelopment or initial development where:
Development permits have been applied for and are under review; or
Rezoning enquiry or application has been submitted and is under review; and
The rezoning enquiry or application or development permit is being diligently pursued
Note For projects requiring rezoning, submission of a full and complete letter of enquiry package and full payment of the required fee by July 1 of the vacancy reference year by the registered owner will meet this requirement.
Note For properties with a development permit under review, the permit must have been applied for by July 1 of the vacancy reference year by the registered owner to meet this requirement.
A property is subject to the tax if no development permit application or rezoning enquiry or application has been submitted for review to create housing supply.
A property will not be subject to the tax if it is a property that:
Is a heritage property as it is defined in the Vancouver Charter External website, opens in new tab (property that, in the opinion of Council or its delegate, either “has sufficient heritage value or character to justify its conservation” or “is protected heritage property”)
Has a development permit or heritage alteration permit application for the rehabilitation and conservation of heritage property, which has been applied for and is under review by July 1 of the vacancy reference year
A property is subject to the tax if no permit application has been submitted for redevelopment to create housing supply.
The goal of the Empty Homes Tax is to create more rental housing in Vancouver. This provision was put in place to encourage owners of vacant land to move forward with the creation of housing supply on their properties.
Permits to build or develop have been applied for and are under review
The application to build is being diligently pursued
For vacant land with no dwelling unit, the Vacancy Tax By-law PDF file requires that a permit application is under review by July 1 of the vacancy reference year and being diligently pursued, and does not require the permit to be issued for the exemption to apply.
Vacant unimproved residential properties that are not in the development process.
Transfer of property, folio numbers and access codes, and how to declare a sold property.
Properties that have had a transfer of legal ownership during the tax year will not be subject to the tax; however, the current registered owner is still required to submit a property status declaration.
Property owners will require their folio number and access code to submit an Empty Homes Tax property status declaration:
Every property is uniquely identified for property tax purposes with a folio number
Each registered owner of a property has their own access code. If there is more than one registered owner of a property, each owner may have their own unique access code.
Fred and Elaine Jones = 1 Access Code
Fred Jones, Elaine Jones = 2 Access Codes (one code each)
At any point in time there will be only one set of active access codes. When a property transfers to a new owner, a new set of unique access codes will be created for them. The previous owner’s access codes will be locked so that they can only be used to view historical data.
Folio and access codes are issued regularly as part of declaration and other tax administration processes. Property owners can find this on any property tax notice or call 3-1-1 to obtain this information at any time.
The ability to submit a property status declaration, or provide any other submission related to the Empty Homes Tax, is only possible by the current registered owner:
Only one registered owner can submit a property status declaration each year. Once a declaration has been submitted, additional owners will not be able to submit a second declaration.
For properties sold after the declaration period has opened:
If the closing is between the opening of the declaration period in November and December 31 of the vacancy reference year, it is recommended that the property status declaration be made by the vendor prior to the transfer of the property.
If the closing is between January 1 and the closing of the declaration period in February, the property status declaration should/must be made by the vendor prior to the transfer of the property. As the property status declaration is for the prior vacancy reference year, only the vendor will have knowledge of the property’s status.
Buyers of residential property should consider requesting the following to be included as additional terms in the Contract of Purchase and Sale:
Status declaration - That the seller of the property provide a copy of the completed and filed property status declaration
Statutory declaration - That the seller provide a statutory declaration at closing confirming the filed property status declaration is true and correct
Express representation and warranty -confirming that the property has not been vacant (as defined by the By-law) for more than six months during the current or prior year
Holdback of potential tax pending - Providing that the City has not yet determined if a property is subject to the tax or not, provide for a holdback of the potential tax pending the City’s determination
Adjustment - Where the property is clearly subject to the Vacancy Tax, provide that an adjustment be carried out by the buyer’s conveyancer and the Vacancy Tax will be borne solely by the seller
If a property is sold and the previous owner did not make a declaration, the following applies:
on or after
No property status
declaration is made
The buyer can submit the declaration and claim the property transfer exemption
Note We recommend that the seller make the property status declaration wherever possible.
It may be difficult for the buyer to make a declaration on behalf of the seller because:
They were not responsible for occupying the property for at least six months of the reference period.
The ownership of the property did not change during that period.
If the seller does not make a property status declaration, it is recommended that the buyer:
Submits the declaration on behalf of the seller
Requests a statutory declaration from the seller at closing confirming that the status of the property is true and correct.
The property will be deemed vacant and subject to the tax.
The current owner will be held responsible for the payment of the tax as it is attached to the property account.
If the City has not yet determined if a property is subject to the tax, it is recommended that the contract provide for a holdback of the potential Vacancy Tax pending the City’s determination. Or where the property is clearly subject to the tax, provide that an adjustment be carried out by the buyer’s conveyancer and the Vacancy Tax will be borne solely by the seller.
Renting and listing for sale
Rental restrictions, legal ownership, or unable to rent or sell. Evidence required for a property that is tenanted (rented) and is selected for audit.
If a property is unoccupied for more than six months of the current year, it will be subject to the tax unless an exemption applies.
A property will not be subject to the tax if it was rented to an arm's length tenant for residential purposes for at least six months of the year, in periods of 30 or more consecutive days; for example:
Short term leases are exempt if they have been rented for a minimum of 30 days in periods that add up to six months
Long term leases are exempt if they have been rented for six months or more
Note A property is not required to be the principal residence of the tenant or subtenant. This allows rentals for non-consecutive periods of at least 30 days, such as a fixed-term rental to someone who is renovating their home or who has temporary work in Vancouver.
There is no exemption for property that is unoccupied solely because it is being listed for rent.
Owners are encouraged to reduce the asking rental cost until the unit is rented, as they will not be exempt from the tax on the basis of being unable to find a tenant.
Note This exemption applies to properties that were occupied for residential purposes. This exemption does not apply to properties that are rented and being used solely as office space.
The property is on one parcel and in a building with separate rental units
Only one unit is used as a principal residence or rented to an arm's length tenant for residential purposes for at least six months of the current year in periods of 30 or more consecutive days
Note To determine if other types of leasehold property are subject to the tax, more information—including the civic address—will be needed.
Note Some leasehold tenants are recorded on the property tax roll and are responsible for paying regular property taxes. The long-term leaseholders are responsible for ensuring the property is occupied and are required to make an annual property status declaration in the same way that an owner of non-leased land would be.
Multi-unit rental building
If you are the owner of a multi-unit, purpose-built rental building that is under one folio, you are required to submit an Empty Homes Tax property status declaration.
To be exempt from the Empty Homes Tax, only one unit within the building needs to be:
Used as a principal residence for at least six months of the current year; or
Rented to an arm's length tenant for at least six months of the current year in periods of 30 or more consecutive days
Note In the declaration, it is a legal requirement for the registered owner to provide the tenant’s name(s) as evidence that the property is a rental property. For a multi-unit residential building as noted above, you are only required to list at least one tenancy agreement with the option to include more or all for the property.
Adjacent parcels of land that share a property line or strata lots that have been joined by a permitted interior connection (such as a door or staircase) and are used as one residence will be treated as one residence for the purposes of the Vacancy Tax.
The tax will not apply to any of the parcels, when adjacent parcels are:
Used as a principal residence
Rented to an arm's length tenant out for at least six months of the year or qualify for an exemption from the Empty Homes Tax
Owners will need to be prepared to provide information and evidence to demonstrate that the adjacent parcels are used as one residence.
In some cases, BC Assessment may treat multiple adjacent parcels as a single parcel and there may be only one property tax folio; in this case, only one property status declaration will need to be submitted.