Frequently Asked Questions – Real Estate Legal Services

Real Estate Legal Services – General Information

What is the role of real estate lawyers in BC?

Real estate lawyers in BC play a vital role in facilitating property transactions. They ensure legal compliance, working collaboratively with realtors, brokers, and financial institutions to complete the sale and/or transfer of a real property between parties.


How does zoning impact real estate developments in BC?

Zoning regulations significantly influence real estate developments in BC, requiring a deep understanding of municipal and provincial requirements. Some jurisdictions—like the City of Vancouver—have their own municipal charter which govern zoning rules, while others are subject to the Provincial Local Government Act.

In 2023, the provincial government began introducing changes to the rules governing municipal zoning laws that could have significant impact on zoning across the province, and impact usage of various different property types.


What is the role of contracts in BC real estate transactions?

From leasing contracts to purchase agreements, contracts are crucial in BC real estate transactions, helping outline potential risks and clarifying details around obligations, timing and any compliance requirements. That’s why it’s so important to have knowledgeable legal counsel to help support you through the transaction.


Are there unique considerations for strata properties in BC?

Yes, BC has specific laws—outlined in the Strata Property Act—pertaining to strata properties. These rules outline how strata properties are governed and their usage.

In addition, each strata will enacts its own unique bylaws to govern the specific operations of the strata property—compliant with the Strata Property Act—including things like, monthly strata fees, strata council composition and more

When it comes to strata property transactions, key considerations include paperwork that must be supplied by the strata corporation as well as details around how the strata allocates common and limited common property, such as parking and storage areas.


How are real estate transactions on First Nation lands handled?

Real estate transactions on First Nation lands require a unique approach depending on the Nation, as well as the type of transaction (i.e. conveyance, etc). A knowledgeable legal partner can help you navigate the regulatory and legal requirements of a real estate transaction on First Nation lands.


How are property values assessed in BC?

Property values in BC are determined by BC Assessment—a provincial Crown corporation that classifies and values all real property in BC. These values take into account factors like zoning and local market knowledge to determine the most probable open market price of a property.

Provincial and municipal governments use BC Assessment values to determine applicable property taxes for any given property.


How are disputes resolved in BC real estate transactions?

Disputes in BC real estate transactions vary, and can involve construction conflicts, easement issues, disputes between buyers and sellers, disagreements between landlord and tenant, disputes between the city and property owners, and situations related to bankruptcy.

Depending on the type of dispute, the parties can appear before the courts, a tribunal or other adjudicating body.


Who is the regulatory body governing Real Estate Professionals in BC?

As of August 1, 2021, the regulatory body governing Real Estate Professionals in BC is the British Columbia Financial Services Authority (BCFSA).


Buying & Selling

What are the key steps in a real estate transaction in Canada?

In Canadian real estate transactions, key steps include an initial consultation with a real estate lawyer or notary public and a realtor/broker, property search, offer and negotiation, home inspection, financing approval, and closing.


What’s the difference between a realtor and a lawyer in a real estate transaction?

Realtors and lawyers play distinct roles in a real estate transaction, each contributing expertise in different aspects of the process.

A realtor is a licensed real estate professional who assists buyers and sellers in the process of buying or selling property. Realtors can work as listing agents (representing sellers) or buyer’s agents (representing buyers), and support clients with a variety of services, including searching for property to purchase, marketing a property for sale, negotiating terms of a transaction, and providing market expertise, to name a few.

A lawyer—often specializing in real estate law—provides legal guidance and ensures that the transaction adheres to legal requirements. Lawyers can be especially valuable in complex transactions or situations. Their expertise often relates to preparing legal documents such as purchase agreements and contracts, ensuring legal compliance with regulatory requirements, conducting title searches, and verifying party identities, and more.


What’s the difference between lawyers and notary public in real estate transactions?

Notaries and lawyers can provide similar services in a real estate transaction and can be comparable in cost for these services. The main difference between these two professionals relates to educational background, areas they can provide advice, governing bodies, and insurance.

In 2022, the BC government began plans to modernize the regulatory framework for notaries, lawyers and paralegals. These potential changes are currently still pending formal launch.


What is the process of transferring title in a real estate transaction?

The process of transferring title involves several steps, including relevant paperwork with the BC Land Title & Survey office, as well as addressing potential Property Transfer Tax implication. Depending on the property, the type of transaction and the parties, this process can be quite involved. Title transfers can also trigger potential secondary reporting requirements—such as a Land Owner Transparency Act (LOTA) report.

Given the potentially complex nature of a transactions reporting requirements, it’s important to discuss the specifics of your transaction with a knowledgeable legal partner early in the process.


How does financing work for real estate transactions in Canada?

In Canada, real estate financing involves a combination of the buyer’s down payment and a mortgage loan. Buyers typically contribute a down payment—usually a percentage of the property’s purchase price—with the minimum percentage varying based on factors such as property type and use.

Most buyers secure a mortgage loan from banks, credit unions, or other private lenders, specifying terms such as interest rates and repayment periods. If the down payment is below 20%, mortgage default insurance, provided by entities like CMHC, or Canada Guaranty, is required to protect the lender in case of default.

Interest rates on mortgages can be fixed or variable, and buyers should consider various factors when choosing the best mortgage product. Closing costs, including legal fees and land transfer taxes, are additional expenses that buyers need to cover. Government programs may offer incentives, especially for first-time homebuyers, contributing to a diverse landscape of real estate financing options in Canada.


Can foreign visitors to Canada purchase real estate?

In 2022, the Federal government introduced legislation to prohibit the purchase of residential property by non-Canadians. Dubbed the ‘foreign buyers ban’, this legislation was extended in early 2024, keeping the rules in place until the end of 2026.

While there are currently several exemptions from the foreign buyers ban in Canada, there are also several other prohibition in place that may impact a real estate transaction. The federal government’s Underused Housing Tax (UHT), BC’s Short-Term Rental Restriction and Speculation and Vacancy Tax, and the City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes Tax are just a few.

It’s important to consult a trusted legal advisor about these potential restrictions before beginning a real estate transaction.



What are key aspects of a commercial lease?

There are several key aspects of a commercial lease, including the specific parties engaging in the agreement, the condition and permitted usage of the premises, term of the lease agreement, as well as the payable rent.

The last aspect—rent—is an important component of the lease because it can be determined in several ways, including ‘base rent’ plus ‘additional rent’, or in some retail instances, include a ‘percentage rent’ component based on gross sales.

Regardless of the particulars of the lease agreement, it’s also important to consider the manner in which the lease is negotiated and administered. Recent cases in BC have shone a light on the importance of good faith dealings in lease agreements.


What is the difference between a Triple-Net Lease (NNN) and gross lease?

In a ‘Triple-Net Lease (NNN)’, the tenant is responsible for paying not only the ‘base rent’ but also the operating expenses associated with the property, sometimes called ‘additional rent’. These operating expenses typically include property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs (hence the “triple net” designation).

In a Gross Lease, the landlord typically covers all the operating expenses associated with the property. The tenant pays a fixed, all-inclusive rent amount, and the landlord is responsible for property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs.

It’s important during a lease negotiation to have clarity around the lease structure, as well as the common lease practices within the market.


What should the condition of the premises be at the beginning and end of the term?

Detailed information on the expectations for the condition of premises at the beginning and end of the lease term are typically outlined in the lease agreement itself, and include things such as approved tenant improvements, features of the space that will remain in place after the tenant vacates, and any penalties for non-compliance.

A knowledgeable legal partner can help draft these lease clauses to provide clarity and mitigate potential risk for both landlord and tenant.


How can you terminate a lease before the term expires?

Many lease agreements will include conditions where a lease can be terminated before the end of the term, including stipulations around redevelopment, demolition or sale of the property, material breach of the lease, non-payment of rent, and others.

The details outlined in these conditions are vital, as they provide specificity about things like notice period for termination, potential recourse in the instance of a dispute, plus instances beyond either party’s control (e.g. a global pandemic).