Vancouver homeowners will want to keep their eye on the mail in the coming days, with notifications about the city’s new empty homes tax on the way.
The City of Vancouver has begun distributing instructions to an estimated 180,000 homeowners on how to fill out new empty homes tax declarations that are due in just under three months.
The new tax, the first of its kind in Canada, applies to non-principal residences which are unoccupied for six months of the year or longer.
The tax took effect on July 1 and applies a penalty of one per cent of a home’s assessed property value to properties that are left empty.
Under the city’s rules, homeowners now have until Feb. 2, 2018 to fill out a declaration about the status of their properties.
Owners who miss the deadline will be on the hook for a $250 fine, while owners who lie on their declaration could be hit with a $10,000 penalty.
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The city says it plans to enforce the rules rigorously, however hasn’t yet said how it plans to do so.
“There will be strict penalties for those who do not declare by February the 2nd of 2018. So there is a couple months here, and if the city doesn’t hear back with an empty homes tax declaration, then we have to assume it’s an empty home,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson on Tuesday.
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Vancouver passed its empty homes tax last November, amid a rental housing crunch and a vacancy rate of below one per cent.
The city said that as of February, 2017 there were more than 25,000 empty or under-occupied properties in Vancouver.
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There are some exceptions to the new tax.
They include allowances for owners who sold their homes during the tax year or are undergoing medical or supportive care, as well as for homes that are undergoing permitted renovations.
The city estimates the program will cost about $7.4 million to implement over three years.
Anyone having trouble with the declaration can call 311, or find more information online.