A billionaire's association with a luxury Vancouver Island mansion highlights land title anomalies that mean property transfer and foreign buyers

Billionaire's association with luxury B.C. mansion highlights property tax loophole

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2022-05-12 19:30:11

A billionaire's association with a luxury Vancouver Island mansion highlights land title anomalies that mean property transfer and foreign buyers taxes don't apply to purchases of some pricey B.C. homes.

CBC revealed last month that Russian-born billionaire Yuri Milner was the man behind the trust that bought the $18 million Mille Fleurs mansion in 2013 — seven years before the oceanfront property would house Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they reportedly drew up plans to step back from their royal duties.

But beyond the intrigue associated with ownership of the mansion, the investigation also underscores an unusual property registration situation that predates strata title legislation passed in the 1960s.

In a nutshell, Mille Fleurs is one of a number of properties located on a larger plot of land owned by a corporation known as Towner Bay Country Club Ltd., which was incorporated in 1929. The bigger plot isn't subdivided, and the owners of the homes located within it are all shareholders of the corporation.

When a house is sold, the individual shares change hands, but the sale of one lot doesn't affect the ownership of the larger plot, which means there's no transaction to register with the Land Title Office — and as a result, no payment of the property transfer or foreign buyers taxes.

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