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Owners of second homes, empty condos consider renting, lying, selling, and more as vacancy tax looms

June 27th, 2017 · 1 Comment

Vancouver’s impending empty-homes tax — the first in the country — is prompting a lot of angst as owners facing bills of $4,000 to $100,000 a year decide what to do.

You urban-life keeners will remember that most of the units identified as empty are condos. The city’s electrical study identified 10,800 homes in the city where there was no sign of use for 12 straight months. Of those, 9,750 were identified as condos.

The less-well-defined census statistic on “not occupied by the usual resident” identified about 25,000 homes in that category. Previous studies have shown that condo-dense areas of the city, like Coal Harbour, had a lot of units in this category.

So I started phoning around to realtors dealing with condos in this area to find out what is happening. Some of those angry about the tax have claimed that people they know are selling, so I wanted to find out if that was true. (BTW, I mistakenly didn’t include it in my story but, of course, the city is exempting owners from the tax if their strata doesn’t allow rentals.)

But the realtors I talked to (granted, not a scientific sample) said they saw no sign of that. Instead, some are choosing to rent. Some are still protesting, hoping to get the rules changed — that group seems to consist entirely of people who use their condos regularly for visits to Vancouver to see family or enjoy the city or go to medical appointments. As a few sources told me, some people are planning to simply lie outright. Others are planning to lie creatively, i.e. by pretending to rent out to someone while continuing to use the condo the same way as before.

I was surprised to hear that some owners of high-end condos are, in fact, being spurred by the tax to rent out their units. Realtor Holly Wood, also a property manager, told me that’s happening with a number of units she’s dealt with. The picture in my Globe story shows off a nearly 2,000-foot-apartment on Cordova facing Coal Harbour that’s going for $8,400 a month. I’m not quite sure how this is going to solve the city’s affordable-housing problem, but it seems to be providing more rental options for high rollers.

(By the way, I couldn’t check the ownership of the property on Sunday, when I wrote the story, because BC Assessment information isn’t available on the weekend. But I checked today. The owner is someone whose address is listed as Cyprus and whose family name is of eastern European origin, according to the interwebs.)

This story is just going to keep going, with all kinds of outcomes that weren’t anticipated. Your continuing calls with new information about what’s going on much appreciated.

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  • Condo Guy

    Condos that have rental restrictions present many complications. Mine only allows so many to be rented at one time. The city’s response to me is that I must be on the waiting list at all times, and the moment one becomes available, I must get my stuff in storage, get an agent and get it rented. If for example I could rent in January, but was out of town and came back in February, I could be liable for the tax. If no rentals were available for the rest of the year, I would still have to pay the fine as I could have rented in January. They want copies of the strata minutes and a signed statement saying I was on the waiting list. If I say i was unable to rent, I will have to pay the tax and the penalty(because they say I lied). This puts the strata council in an awkward position as they can manipulate the waiting list to put their friends at the bottom. All these details aren’t in the bylaw, but the city responded in this manner when they emailed me. And there will be other complications given the variety of rental arrangements.