Paperwork rolls out for Vancouver’s empty homes tax

Click to play video: 'Vancouver criticized for empty home tax PR campaign' Vancouver criticized for empty home tax PR campaign
The City of Vancouver is launching an awareness campaign about its empty homes tax, but some are criticizing how it’s getting the message out. Grace Ke reports – Sep 12, 2017

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.

LISTEN: Vancouver warns homeowners to fill in forms on empty homes tax or face a fine
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READ MORE: Deadline looms for City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax

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.

READ MORE: Vancouver criticized for empty home tax PR campaign

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.

WATCH: Victoria councilors push for empty homes tax

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Victoria councilors push for empty homes tax – Feb 14, 2017

The city says it plans to enforce the rules rigorously, however hasn’t yet said how it plans to do so.

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“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.

READ MORE: Victoria councilors push for empty homes tax

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.

However, Robertson said the majority of homeowners will not be on the hook for the tax “because people live in their homes,” but added “we know there are thousands [of homes], anyway, that are sitting empty right now.”

WATCH: Part-time resident calls Vancouver’s empty homes tax unfair

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Vancouver empty home tax – Nov 7, 2017

There are some exceptions to the new tax.

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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.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver to provide ‘support and information’ for property owners hit with empty homes tax

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.

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