Understanding the Canadian ban on non-Canadians buying real estate
Published on February 23, 2023
The Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act came into force on January 1, 2023. This law, which is part of the Liberal Housing Plan, aims to stabilize a real estate market weakened by the pandemic, offset inflation within the country and reduce foreign funds on Canadian soil. The bottom line is that non-Canadians are prohibited from buying residential properties in Canada until December 31, 2024. There are however some conditions and exceptions.
A judgement by the Cour supérieure du Québec on January 31, 2023, states that the law does not apply to any sales resulting from promises to purchase or to sell that were concluded by non-Canadians prior to January 1, 2023.
Let’s look at the implications of the Act for buyers and sellers in the country.
- What is a “non-Canadian buyer”?
- What types of property are covered by the Act?
- Consequences for buyers not complying with the law
- Implications for sellers in Quebec
What is a “non-Canadian buyer”?
Section 2 of the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act defines non-Canadian as an “individual who is neither a Canadian citizen nor a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act nor a permanent resident.” The definition also includes (i) corporations that are incorporated in ways other than under Canadian or provincial laws, and (ii) those that are incorporated under federal or provincial laws but whose shares are not listed on a stock exchange and are controlled by a non-Canadian.
This basically means that non-Canadians are prohibited from directly or indirectly buying a residential property in Canada.
There are exceptions set out in Section 4 of the Act. They state that, under certain conditions, the following categories of buyers (among others) are allowed to buy residential properties in the country:
- Temporary residents (students, young professionals with a work or work-travel visa, etc.) who meet certain conditions set out in the regulation
- Non-Canadians buying a residential property with a spouse or common-law partner who is eligible to buy under the law
- Refugees and people protected under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
- Diplomatic or consular agents or foreign states making a purchase for democratic or consular purposes
What types of property are covered by the Act?
The ban covers these types of residential buildings located in Canada:
- Individual detached houses
- Semi-detached or row houses
- Dwellings held in co-ownership (e.g. condos)
- Vacant lots zoned for residential or mixed use
This therefore means that multi-dwelling buildings with more than 3 units are not affected by the law, nor are commercial buildings. The government also excludes residential properties located outside census metropolitan areas or agglomerations.
Consequences for buyers not complying with the law
Any non-Canadian who fails to comply with this law, as well as any person or entity that “counsels, induces, aids or abets” a non-Canadian to circumvent the law, is liable to a maximum fine of $10,000. Also, subsection 7(1) states that the superior court of the province where the residential property is located can order the property to be sold.
Implications for sellers in Quebec
It is likely that, in Quebec, there will only be minor impacts from the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act. Data compiled by JLR Land Title Solutions shows that purchases by foreign buyers only accounted for 0.9% of all real estate transactions in the province in 2019, which was 0.2% lower than in 2018.1 And, since the real estate market has already slowed somewhat due to the repeated increases in the policy interest rate, the new law is not likely to have a major effect on selling prices in the province.
What to do if you suspect your buyer is not Canadian
If you receive an offer to purchase on your property but you’re not sure the interested party is Canadian under the definition of the law, You can ask the potential buyer for a legal opinion drawn up by a notary or lawyer, confirming that the person has the right to buy a residential property in Canada. The notary handling the transaction will make the necessary checks to make sure the buyer isn’t in breach of the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act.
To get advice or explanations on the law’s intricacies, feel free to talk to a notary or lawyer in private practice. If you have access to DuProprio’s legal assistance, schedule a call with one of our notaries via the Help Centre or by calling us at 1-866-387-7677.
The support offered by DuProprio lets you sell your property with total peace of mind. Contact us to learn more about our team and our visibility services, or watch our short webinar.