Individuals Exemptions for Speculation and Vacancy Tax

People who own residential property within designated taxable regions of B.C. may be eligible for an exemption from the speculation and vacancy tax.

Shared Ownership

When more than one owner is on title for a residence in a taxable region, each owner claims their relevant exemption as an individual. Different eligibility requirements may apply to different owners.

Example: If a parent co-owns a home with their adult child and the adult child lives in the home and the parent lives elsewhere, then the following exemptions will apply:

  • The child claims the principal residence exemption
  • The parents claim the tenancy exemption for family or other non-arm's-length persons

Example: An elderly parent adds their adult child on title to the parent’s condo in Vancouver for end of life planning. The parent still lives in the condo and the child lives in Prince George. The exemptions will apply as follows:

  • The parent claims the principal residence exemption
  • The child claims the tenancy exemption for family or other non-arm's-length persons

Exemptions

The following exemptions are available for individuals:

  1. Principal residence exemptions
  2. Previous principal residence
  3. Occupied by a tenant
  4. Can’t live in the residence because it’s uninhabitable
  5. Secondary residence close to medical treatment facility
  6. Just bought or inherited the property
  7. Separation or divorce
  8. Bankruptcy
  9. Recent death of owner
  10. Property is in a trust created by a will for a minor
  11. Property has rental restrictions
  12. Property is a strata hotel
  13. Property includes a licenced child daycare
  14. No residence on the property
  15. Other exclusions from the tax

1. Principal residence exemptions

Generally, an owner is exempt from the tax if the residential property is their principal residence, which is the place where the owner lives for a longer period in a calendar year than any other place. People who have multiple homes can only claim the principal residence exemption on the home they live in for the longest period in the calendar year.

Spouses cannot claim two different principal residence exemptions unless specific situations apply, such as spouses living apart for work or medical reasons or because of recent separation or divorce.

To be eligible for a principal residence-related exemption, an owner must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada who’s a B.C. resident for income tax purposes and isn’t part of a satellite family.

Person with a disability lives in the residence

Owners of a property are exempt if a person with a disability lives there as their principal residence. The disability can be designated under the Canada Pension Plan, Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act, or the federal Disability Tax Credit under the Income Tax Act.

Similar to other tax circumstances requiring authorization, if an owner is physically or mentally unable to complete the declaration, they can arrange for an authorized person to take responsibility for them, such as through a legal power of attorney.

Example: Co-owners of a home have a paraplegic son who uses a wheelchair. They don't live in the home but the son lives there as his principal residence. He is designated under the Canada Pension Plan, and so they qualify for this exemption.

Living apart from spouse for work reasons

Spouses who live apart for work reasons may be able to claim a principal residence exemption on an additional home. Owners will only qualify if one of the following two conditions apply:

  • One principal residence is at least 100 km closer to the workplace than the distance between the other principal residence and the workplace; or
  • One principal residence is on Vancouver Island and the other residence is not on Vancouver Island

Example: One spouse lives in a home in Vancouver as their principal residence while another lives in another home they own in Victoria as their principal residence because they work in Victoria. The spouses qualify for this exemption for both of their homes.

Living apart from spouse for medical reasons

Spouses who live apart for medical reasons may be able to claim principal residence exemptions on an additional home. To qualify:

  • A medical practitioner must certify that an individual has a health condition, and
  • The owner must certify that the condition prevents the two spouses from living together. More information may be requested upon audit.

Similar to other tax circumstances requiring authorization, if an owner is physically or mentally unable to complete the declaration, they can arrange for an authorized person to take responsibility for them, such as through a legal power of attorney.

Example: Two spouses in Delta must live apart when one must move to a home in Vancouver where they receive long-term medical treatment. A doctor signs a physician certification form to verify they are eligible for the exemption for the homes they own in Delta and Vancouver.

Lived in the residence before moving out of province

An individual who had been living in the home but moves out of the province before the end of the year can still claim an exemption, even if they were not a B.C. resident for tax purposes at the end of the year.

Example: A B.C. homeowner moved out of their home in October 2018 and was a resident of Ontario at the end of 2018, but was not able to sell the house by the end of the year. They would be eligible for this exemption for their previous residence in B.C.

2. Previous Principal Residence

The principal residence exemption also applies in cases where the owner lived in the principal residence but no longer lives there under these circumstances:

Lived in home before going into residential care

An owner is exempt from the tax for up to two years if they lived in the home before entering a residential care facility due to age, disability, addiction, illness or frailty. The residential care facility must offer services such as daily meals, housekeeping or nursing care.

The owner must have been a B.C. resident for income tax purposes, and the property must have been the owner’s principal residence:

  • In the calendar year before they entered residential care, or

  • In the year before an "applicable period" if the applicable period came just before they entered residential care. An "applicable period" is a period in which one of these exemptions applies:

  • Lived in the home before going into residential care

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of heritage or conservation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of construction or renovation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because it’s uninhabitable

  • Away from home for medical reasons

  • Away from home for any other reason (valid once in 10 years)

Defining an "applicable period" can be complicated. Please contact us for any questions.

Example: An owner lives in a home through 2017, then in January 2018 moves to a residential care home for the elderly. They qualify for this exemption for 2018 and 2019.

Similar to other tax circumstances requiring authorization, if an owner is physically or mentally unable to complete the declaration, they can arrange for an authorized person to take responsibility for them, such as through a legal power of attorney.

Contact us if you have any questions.

Away from home for medical reasons

An owner is exempt from the tax if they’re away from their home to receive medical treatment for themselves, their spouse or their minor child. The medical treatment must be required, as certified by a medical practitioner. The owner must certify that the treatment is impractical to obtain closer to the principal residence. This exemption is available for up to two years for the same medical condition

The owner must have been a B.C. resident for income tax purposes, and the property must have been the owner’s principal residence:

  • In the calendar year before they left for the medical treatment, or

  • In the year before an "applicable period" if the applicable period came just before they left. An "applicable period" is a period in which one of these exemptions applies:

  • Lived in the home before going into residential care

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of heritage conservation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of construction or renovation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because it’s uninhabitable

  • Away from home for medical reasons

  • Away from home for any other reason (valid once in 10 years)

Defining an "applicable period" can be complicated. Please contact us for any questions.

Example: A homeowner lives in their home up to 2018 and then, during January to August 2019, they live in accommodations near Childrens' Hospital in Vancouver while their child receives medical treatment. They qualify for this exemption for 2019.

Contact us if you have any questions.

Away from home for other reasons (valid once in 10 years)

A B.C. resident can claim a principal residence exemption if they’re away from their principal residence for an extended time or no longer living in it, unless they are incarcerated. This exemption is valid once in 10 years.

The owner must have been a B.C. resident for income tax purposes, and the property must have been the owner’s principal residence:

  • In the calendar year before they left their home for an extended time, or

  • In the year before an "applicable period" if the applicable period came just before they left. An "applicable period" is a period in which one of these exemptions applies:

  • Lived in the home before going into residential care

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of heritage conservation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because of construction or renovation work

  • Couldn’t live in the residence because it’s uninhabitable

  • Away from home for medical reasons

Defining an "applicable period" can be complicated. Please contact us for any questions.

Example: A B.C. homeowner lives in their principal residence up to 2018 then takes a one-year job in Northern B.C. in 2019 before returning to their home. They qualify for this exemption for 2019 but if they claim it in 2019, they can’t use this exemption again until 2030.

Contact us if you have any questions.

3. Occupied by a tenant

Owners of homes occupied by a renter or by family or other non-arm's-length persons for at least six months of the year in increments of one month or more at a time may be exempt (three months for 2018). For the owner to be eligible for the exemption, tenancy requirements must be met. Review these requirements and the tenancy examples before completing the declaration to ensure the correct requirements are met.

4. Can’t live in the residence because it’s uninhabitable

All owners of a property may claim an exemption if no one can live in a residence because it’s uninhabitable due to a hazardous condition or because the residence has been substantially damaged or destroyed. To be eligible, there must have been at least 60 consecutive days in the year when no one could live there. This exemption is available in the year the property became uninhabitable, and in the following year if the property remains uninhabitable for at least 60 days in the second year.

Example: A home is damaged by a fire in 2018 and cannot be inhabited for four months until all repairs have been completed, which will require two months of work in 2018 and two months of work in 2019. The homeowners are eligible for this exemption for both 2018 and 2019.

5. Secondary residence close to medical treatment facility

An owner is exempt for a calendar year on a secondary residence if:

  • It is periodically occupied by the owner (or the owner’s spouse or child) so they can receive medical treatment required for their health, and
  • The treatment facility is close to that second home

For this exemption only, it doesn’t matter if the owner’s child is an adult or a minor. However, this exemption requires written certification from a medical practitioner.

Example: A family buys a second home near a treatment facility so the family can have a place to live while their child is undergoing a lengthy medical procedure and recovery period. They are eligible for this exemption for each year in which they occupy the home temporarily because of their child’s medical treatment nearby.

6. Just bought or inherited the property

Owners are exempt in the year they bought or legally inherited the property.

A newly bought property is exempt if you paid the property transfer tax or didn't have to pay the property transfer tax for one of the following reasons:

  • First-time home buyers’ exemption
  • Newly built homes exemption
  • Reversion, escheated or forfeited land exemption
  • Transfers to or from a trustee in bankruptcy
  • Transfer of land by Public Guardian and Trustee
  • Transfer to a veteran or veteran's spouse

Example: An owner purchased a property in March 2018 and paid property transfer tax on the transaction. For the 2018 tax year, the owner may claim the year of purchase exemption. In 2019, the owner must claim a different exemption or else they will be subject to the tax.

Example: A B.C. resident inherits a home in 2019 from his late uncle’s estate but doesn’t plan to move into it until 2020. He is eligible for this exemption for 2019.

7. Separation or divorce

Married spouses, or common-law spouses who have been living together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, are eligible for an exemption on family property if they have separated (due to a breakdown in a spousal relationship) and live apart for at least 90 consecutive days in a calendar year.

  • Separating or divorcing spouses are eligible for the exemption in the year they separate if they live apart for at least 90 consecutive days that year and they don’t reconcile
  • Spouses who separate less than 90 days from the end of the year will be eligible for an exemption the following year if they don’t reconcile
  • Spouses can claim the exemption for a second year if they have not finalized their division of family property and remain apart and do not reconcile

8. Bankruptcy

A bankrupt owner is exempt from the tax if the owner's property has vested with a trustee in bankruptcy for at least 60 consecutive days in the calendar year. A trustee in bankruptcy is exempt from the tax for property vested with the trustee as of December 31.

9. Recent death of owner

If an owner of a property dies in a calendar year, all owners of the property at the time of death are exempt in the year of death and the immediately following calendar year. The owner’s personal representative is also exempt, even if they weren’t on title at the time of the death.

Example: A married couple co-owns a second home. If one spouse dies in 2018, the surviving spouse is eligible for this exemption for 2018 as well as for 2019.

10. Property is in a trust created by a will for a minor

The speculation and vacancy tax does not apply to a testamentary trust established by a deceased parent or guardian for the benefit of their minor child.

Example: A parent passes away and leaves their investment property in Lantzville, B.C. in trust for their minor child. The child’s trust would be eligible for this exemption.

11. Property has rental restrictions (2018 and 2019 tax years only)

When a covenant or a strata bylaw prevents the property from being rented out to qualify for a rental exemption, all owners of a property are exempt for the 2018 and 2019 tax years only.

This only applies if the rental restriction was in place on or before October 16, 2018, and the owner also purchased the property before that date.

Example: A B.C. resident purchases a strata property in August 2018 as an investment, but under the strata bylaws they are not allowed to rent it out. Even if the home is empty, they qualify for this exemption for 2018 and 2019, but will have to pay the tax in 2020 if it remains unoccupied.

12. Property is a strata hotel (2018 and 2019 tax years only)

Owners of a strata accommodation property as defined in the Assessment Act, also called strata hotels, are exempt. This exemption is only available for 2018 and 2019 tax years.

13. Property includes a licensed child daycare

Properties that include a licensed and operating daycare for children are exempt from the speculation and vacancy tax.

14. No residence on the property (2018 tax year)

The speculation and vacancy tax was not applied for the 2018 tax year if there’s no residence on the property.

Example: In 2017, an owner buys a vacant lot in Nanaimo with plans to build a home on it later. They qualify for this exemption in 2018.

15. Other exclusions from the tax

  • Property has an assessed value under $150,000
  • Property includes a building that is divided into four or more apartments for rental and is not stratified
  • Property includes a building that is used as a bunkhouse, cookhouse, nursing home, rest home or group home
  • Property owner is a registered charity
  • Property owner is a co-operative
  • Property owner is a not-for-profit corporation and the property is used primarily for a charitable purpose
  • Property owner is a municipality
  • Property owner is an Indigenous Nation trustee
  • Property owner is a government or related entity
  • Property owner is a regional district or similar body, as defined in legislation

Contact us if you believe you should be excluded from the tax under one of these.

Questions? Contact us for help with your inquiries about the speculation and vacancy tax.

Agents are available to take your call from 7:30am to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday.

Toll Free:
1 (833) 554-2323

(Outside North America) Office:
1 (604) 660-2421

Email: spectaxinfo@gov.bc.ca

The speculation and vacancy tax has received Royal Assent in the Legislature. This information is not a replacement for the law.