Each year, home owners throughout the city of Vancouver receive property status declaration from the City to determine if their property is subject to the Empty Homes Tax (EHT).

The declaration has four categories:

  • principal residence;
  • tenanted;
  • eligible for exemption; and
  • vacant properties.

The declaration is typically due in early February, each year and the tax due in April.

A property owner who doesn’t complete their declaration will have their home deemed empty and will pay the three per cent tax. All declarations are audited.

Who pays the tax?

Owners of non-principal residences unoccupied for six months or more each year will pay this tax.

The tax rate

The rate is three per cent of the assessed property value. To find a property’s assessed value, visit BC Assessment and enter the property’s address in the search box.

Who doesn’t pay the tax?

The tax doesn’t apply to:

  • owners of principal residences;
  • a house with a basement suite or a laneway house if one of the units is occupied; and
  • owners of properties rented long-term (with a tenancy agreement), or for at least 30 days in a row for a minimum of six months or a total of 180 days a year. For example, a homeowner renting a property for six 30-day terms is exempt from the tax, even if those six 30-day terms aren’t consecutive.

What is a principal residence?

The city defines principal residence as:

“The usual place where an individual lives, makes his or her home and conducts his or her daily affairs, including, paying bills and receiving mail, and is the residential address used on documentation related to billing, identification, taxation and insurance purposes, including income tax returns, medical services plan documents, driver’s licences, personal identification, vehicle registration and utility bills.”

Exemptions

  • a property being renovated, or under construction or redevelopment (with permits);
  • the owner (or other occupier) is undergoing medical or supportive care;
  • the owner has died and the property is in probate;
  • the property changed ownership during the previous year;
  • there are strata rental restrictions prohibiting rental;
  • the owner uses the property for six months a year for work and has a principal residence elsewhere;
  • there is a court order prohibiting occupancy; and
  • the property is limited to vehicle parking, or a residential building can’t be constructed because of the size or shape of the property.

Owners claiming an exemption must provide evidence, for example, building permits, a letter from a care facility, a death certificate, strata bylaws, or other relevant documents.

No exemption – what to do?

Property owners who don’t qualify for an exemption can:

  • live in their property as a principal residence;
  • rent their property for a minimum of 180 days of the year, in periods of at least 30 consecutive days;
  • hire a property management firm to rent the property on a long-term or periodic basis;
  • have a family member occupy the property as their principal residence;
  • sell the property; or
  • keep the property as-is and pay the Empty Homes Tax.

Complaints and appeals

Home owners with complaints must file their complaints with the Vacancy Tax Review office within 30 days of the date of the issue of the vacancy tax notice. A Vacancy Tax Officer will review the complaint and notify the home owner whether the tax will be imposed or reversed.

If the home owner disagrees, they have 21 days to appeal to the Vacancy Tax Review Panel. The panel’s decision is final.

Penalties and fines

There are a range of penalties and fines for failing to complete a declaration or failing to pay the tax, outlined here.

Did you know?

  • In 2017, when the tax was implemented, the tax rate was one per cent.
  • In 2019, the rate increased to 1.25 per cent.
  • In 2021, the rate increased to three per cent.
  • In 2024 the tax rate has remained at three per cent. 

Resources

Note: The Empty Homes Tax is a City of Vancouver tax.  It isn't the BC provincial Speculation and Vacancy Tax.