The Canadian government has introduced new legislation known as the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, to address housing affordability and accessibility issues in Canada. The Act which went into effect on January 1, 2023 and forbids non-Canadians from purchasing Canadian residential property for two years. This legislation is a response to the high housing costs which have been a major source of anxiety for many Canadians trying to buy a home in recent years. The legislations’ purpose is to ensure that Canadian residential properties are largely sold to Canadian buyers.
What’s included in Residential Properties?
Non-Canadians are prohibited from purchasing Canadian residential property under the Act, but what exactly is constituted "residential property"? Residential property encompasses any real or immovable property used for residential purposes, such as a detached house, a semi-detached house, a row house, a residential condominium unit, or other similar premises, according to the Act. Furthermore, the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Regulations state that this includes any land zoned for residential or mixed use, located inside a census metropolitan area or a census agglomeration, even if it currently lacks a habitable residence.
Who can Buy Residential Properties?
The Act forbids "non-Canadians" from purchasing Canadian residential property, but who exactly is a non-Canadian? A non-Canadian is described as a person who is not a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident of Canada, or a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. Non-Canadians also include corporations or other entities that were not founded under the laws of Canada or a province, as well as any corporation owned by a non-Canadian. This means that non-Canadians cannot simply set up a company to buy the property on their behalf in order to avoid the regulations.
Non-Canadians are prohibited from purchasing residential property in Canada under the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, but there are some exceptions. The Regulations confirm that the definition of "purchase" excludes certain acquisitions, such as the acquisition of an interest or a real right by an individual as a result of death, divorce, separation, or a gift; the rental of a dwelling unit to a tenant for the purpose of the tenant's occupation; the transfer under the terms of a trust established prior to the Act's enactment; or the transfer resulting from the exercise of a security interest. There are also exceptions for temporary residents, such as international students or foreign workers, who may be eligible to purchase residential property if they meet the Act's requirements. It should be noted, however, that not all exceptions are mentioned, and it is recommended that you check with a legal professional to see whether the exceptions apply in your unique case.
If they meet specific qualifications, international students may be permitted to acquire residential property in Canada under the temporary resident exception to the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act. These criteria include: being enrolled in a program of authorized study at a designated learning institution, having filed all required income tax returns for each of the five preceding years, being physically present in Canada for a minimum of 244 days in each of the five preceding years, purchasing a residential property with a price not exceeding $500,000, and not having purchased more than one residential property.
Under certain conditions, temporary residents in Canada with a valid work permit or who are work permit exempt may be entitled to acquire residential property. To be eligible to purchase residential property as a temporary foreign worker, a temporary resident must have worked, in Canada, full-time, for at least three of the four years preceding the year of purchase, filed all required income tax returns for at least three of the four preceding years, and not purchased more than one residential property. These exceptions apply to persons who have lived in Canada for an extended period of time and are purchasing the property as their primary residence.
Non-Canadians may also buy property with their Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or registered Indian spouse or common-law partner, or with a protected person or a qualifying temporary resident. Individuals with valid diplomatic passports and those who have made a refugee claim that was judged admissible and referred to the Refugee Protection Division, among others, are free from the prohibition. It is worth noting that these regulations do not apply to non-Canadians who became liable or took duty under a residential property purchase and sale agreement before January 1, 2023 ce.
Any non-Canadian found to have violated the Act, as well as any individual or corporation that aided or abetted the non-Canadian in the purchase, can be subject to fines of up to $10,000. If a corporation is found guilty of committing an offence under the Act, any officer, director, agent, senior official, or individual authorized to exercise managerial or supervisory functions for the corporation who authorized or assented to the commission of the offence can also be held liable. It is crucial for non-Canadians and any individuals or entities assisting them in the purchase of residential property to ensure compliance with the Act to avoid these penalties.
If it is discovered that a non-Canadian violated the Act by purchasing a residential property, the non-Canadian may be ordered to sell the property. Any and all sale earnings will be used to pay the government's legal fees, return the non-purchase Canadian's amount (up to the price paid for the property by the non-Canadian), and reimburse a portion to any other entitled party. The Receiver General of Canada will receive any remaining funds. It should be highlighted that a non-Canadian who violates the Act cannot profit from the property's sale.
Non-compliance with the Act has harsh penalties, including the prohibition on non-Canadians benefitting from the sale of a residential property obtained in violation of the Act. Non-Canadians, as well as persons or businesses who assist in a prohibited purchase, may face fines of up to $10,000 for their role in the infringement. These fines serve as a reminder of the Act's stringent enforcement and the significance of understanding and adhering to the restrictions that have been established.
Foreign National Impact
The Act intends to increase chances for Canadians to purchase residential property by barring non-Canadians from doing so for two years. It may, however, have a severe influence on the settlement plans of foreign nationals, particularly temporary residents, and highly skilled professionals, who may have to postpone their ambitions to purchase a Canadian property until they become permanent residents or meet the exclusions listed above. Due to the restrictions on settling in the country, it may also have a chilling impact on Canada's attractiveness as a destination for international talent. However, foreign nationals will have to plan for obtaining temporary housing for their initial years in Canada as the exceptions for temporary residents require them to have lived in Canada for a specific number of years before they are able to purchase a Canadian residential property.
The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2023, intends to solve the issue of affordable housing in Canada by prohibiting non-Canadians from purchasing Canadian residential property for two years. While the Act's intention is to provide greater options for Canadians to acquire homes, it also has the potential to harm temporary residents who come to Canada with the eventual intention of becoming permanent residents. These people will now have to postpone their plans to settle and find temporary housing until they meet the conditions for the Act's exemptions or become permanent residents. Furthermore, the Act may make Canada less appealing to high-skilled foreign employees and other in-demand international talent by impeding their ability to effectively settle in the country unless they meet the exemption conditions or become permanent citizens. This may have an influence on Canada's capacity to attract the workers it will require to sustain its economy in the future.
To determine if a residential property is located within a Census Metropolitan Area or a Census Agglomeration, individuals can access Statistics Canada's Census Tract reference maps. For example, the census map for Nova Scotia can be found at https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/geo/maps-cartes/referencemaps-cartesdereference/cma_ca_ct-rmr_ar_sr/map-eng.cfm?CMA=205. The census area is outlined in red on this map.