Ontario to start collecting citizenship data on real estate buyers

Home buyers in Ontario will have to start providing details about their citizenship and residency when they complete land registration documents, according to new Ontario government regulations aimed at gathering data on foreign buyers and speculators in the real estate sector.

The new reporting requirements will take effect Monday, and will apply to anyone who buys land that contains up to six single-family residences, or when they purchase agricultural land, according to new Ontario Finance Ministry guidelines.

Buyers will have to provide information about their residency, citizenship and permanent residency status. If property is bought by a corporation, it will have to provide information about who owns or controls the corporation. The rules also require people acting as trustees or nominees for other buyers to disclose information about the beneficial owners.
The province will also require buyers to reveal whether they or their family members intend to live in a home as their principal residence, and whether the property will be leased out in whole or in part.

The information must be provided through the online Teranet system, which is used to submit land title documents for registration. The province said it will allow a transition period of two weeks from April 24 to May 5 where it will not assess penalties for any “deficiencies” in providing the new information.

The new data is intended to provide the province with more information on trends in the housing market as it ponders potential reforms to cool rapid price growth in the Greater Toronto Area.

One option under consideration is a foreign buyer’s tax, similar to the 15-per-cent tax introduced by the British Columbia government last year. Many provincial officials and private-sector economists have said there is no data on the proportion of properties being purchased by foreign buyers in the Toronto region, making it difficult to assess the potential impact of a new tax.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has also said the city is assessing a tax on vacant properties, which Vancouver is currently implementing, but first want to collect data on how many homes are being purchased and then left vacant in the city by speculators.

The province said institutions that purchase property for a mutual fund trust, real estate investment trust or specified investment flow-through trust will not have to complete the form.

The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2017