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November 22, 2018

Home Sales and Prices Down in Sluggish Fall Market!

The sale price of a detached home on Vancouver’s Eastside continued to drop, as sales failed to keep up with the supply of houses listed for sale.

According to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, 80 detached homes were sold in October, 2018, with 72 units changing hands in September, 2018.

With autumn listing inventories pushing 800, the sales-to-listings ratio is around 1:10.  The lower demand vs. supply has resulted in lower sale prices.  The MLS Home Price Index for Detached homes in Vancouver East is down 5.5% in October 2018 from the same month in 2017.  We have seen even higher price reductions, depending on the type and location of the property.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), higher mortgage rates, stricter borrowing requirements, and housing-related policy changes are amongst the reasons for the slowdown in the Vancouver market.  The Bank of Canada’s key lending rate is now 1% higher than at the start of 2017.

With the Holiday season upon us, we anticipate both sales and listings to decrease through the beginning of January, 2019.  However, one positive aspect of the Eastside detached housing market is that today’s prices are up 26% from October 2015!

November 22, 2018

Cannabis Legalization

The federal government legalized non-medical cannabis on October 17, 2018 through Bill C-54, the Cannabis Act.

This created a corresponding need for the BC government to establish cannabis-related laws and regulations through the newly passed Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA) which governs the possession, use, and cultivation of recreational cannabis.

  1. The CCLA authorizes adults (age 19 and older) to grow up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use as long as the plants aren’t visible from public spaces off the property.
  2. The CCLA, for landlords, prohibits cannabis smoking under existing leases that prohibit smoking tobacco, by amending the BC Residential Tenancy Act. If a residential tenancy agreement entered into before October 17, 2018 prohibits or limits smoking tobacco, and doesn’t expressly permit smoking cannabis, then the agreement is deemed to include a term that prohibits or limits smoking cannabis in the same way smoking tobacco is prohibited or limited.
  3. The CCLA prohibits personal cultivation of cannabis under existing leases, except for federally authorized medical cannabis.
  4. The CCLA establishes, for new leases entered into after October 17, 2018, that the lease must expressly state whether growing or smoking cannabis is prohibited  or limited.  If a lease doesn’t state this, landlords and tenants may negotiate terms regarding growing and smoking of cannabis.
  5. For strata councils, the CCLA doesn’t make amendments to the Strata Property Act. The provincial government also hasn’t imposed cannabis restrictions on strata councils, which can enact bylaws and rules restricting smoking or growing cannabis.
  6. Growing a limited amount of cannabis for health reasons is legal under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes regulations (which accompany Bill C-45) and isn’t contrary to tenancy agreements or strata bylaws.  Anyone growing federally authorized medical cannabis should follow federal guidelines.  Landlords or strata councils which try to restrict use of medical cannabis may be violating the BC Human Rights Code and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  At  the same time, there may be existing obligations to other tenants, including provisions for the quiet use and enjoyment of property.
  7. The CCLA permits municipal councils to set their own restrictions.
  8. Insurers of residential properties may have clauses in their policies specifying that they won’t insure homes used for cannabis production. There have been cases where landlords didn’t permit cannabis growing, and didn’t know a tenant was growing cannabis, but were still denied an insurance claim.
  9. All cannabis retail stores require a provincial license to operate. This is regulated and enforced by the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulations Branch  under CCLA.

September 30, 2018

Hot Summer Cools House Sales!

It was a summer with hot weather and very little rain, causing people to move at a much slower pace. The housing market followed suit with sluggish summer sales. According to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, 67 detached homes were sold in July, 2018 on Vancouver’s Eastside. August 2018 was even slower, with only 58 houses sold in Vancouver East.

Meanwhile, home prices in East Vancouver are down from this time last year, as supply is currently exceeding demand. As we go to press, there are approximately 835 detached homes listed on the Eastside. In July, the Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate by .25%, the fourth rate hike in roughly the last year. For example, most lenders are posting a 5 year closed mortgage at about 5.5%, with discounts to qualifying Buyers of up to 2% or more.

Combined with stricter lending rules implemented by the Federal Government at the beginning of 2018, homebuyers are feeling the bite of tighter credit.

Therefore, it is very important for sellers to price their homes realistically to be successful in a softening market.

September 30, 2018

Where Is The Real Estate Market Headed?

Government Relations-Real Estate Board of Vancouver
To find out, we asked Bryan Yu, deputy chief economist at Central 1 Credit Union. Here’s his forecast:

The Lead-Up
Housing market conditions have shifted since the end of 2017, following the introduction of the federal government’s B20 measures. These measures require federally regulated financial institutions to stress-test conventional mortgages at the Bank of Canada-posted five-year rate, or the contract rate plus an additional 2%, whichever is higher.

First-Time Buyers
The stress test cut about 20% of the purchasing power of a first-time buyer with a down payment less than 20%. Even a first-time buyer with a higher down payment was credit-squeezed and had to lower expectations for a first home, according to Yu.

Trade-Up Buyers
Buyers looking to move up in the market are also being credit-squeezed because they must re-quality at a higher stress-tested rate, if they change lenders. This is causing households to stay where they are, or pay increased down payments through savings.

Looking Ahead
Provincial tax policy uncertainty, related to increases in the foreign buyer tax and the proposed speculation tax, will continue dampening detached home sales. Investors looking for a quick flip have largely disappeared.
For the second half of 2018, Yu forecasts resale transactions province-wide will decline by 11%, led by Vancouver and other urban centres. This decline results from tight credit availability and tighter housing policy rather than economic weakness or increasing interest rates.
A significant correction is not forecast.
Home sales have peaked, and the market is forecast to trend to a lower volume with slower price growth in 2019 and 2020.
Resale housing transactions are forecast to rise modestly in 2019, 2020.
Metro Vancouver detached and luxury markets will see modest price declines.
New housing starts will reach 42,000 units province-wide in 2018, a 3% decline from 2017. Starts will average 40,000 units in both 2019 and 2020.
Sales volumes are underpinned by ongoing economic and population expansion, growth in the housing stock, and still low borrowing costs.

July 24, 2018

Eastside House Sales Ebb in June!

With the arrival of summer 2018, the sales of Vancouver East detached homes slipped in June vs. the number of units sold in May. According to statistics from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, 141 Eastside houses were sold in May 2018. 97 sales were recorded in June 2018. With increases to the number of homes listed for sale, (now around 825) and the reduction in units sold, prices have shown signs of easing.

However, it depends on the type of house, improvements, and location factors as to whether or not a home has lost much value since last year. For example, homes on busier streets, ’fixer-uppers’ or rental stock tend to have lost more value than renovated houses in popular neighbourhoods. The Median Selling Price of a detached home in Vancouver East dropped over $100,000 by the end of June, over the previous month. This may be a reflection of the fact that the lower price range is the most active. Meanwhile, the Home Price Index (HPI) Benchmark Price for a Single Family Detached home is only off by 1.2% from 6 months ago. The impact of stricter lending rules imposed by the Federal Government may also be part of the equation, as we see some weakness in the detached market.

The strata Apartment market has started to hint at a change following a hot 2017 and start of 2018. Condo apartment sales on the Eastside dropped from 175 in May 2018 to 146 in June 2018, with Median Selling Price and HPI Benchmark Price softening.

The summer market, historically, is slower than the spring, as Vancouverites leave for vacation or take advantage of the ‘summer in the City’. With the housing market changing, it is extremely important to work with me on pricing your home correctly for sale.

July 24, 2018

New real estate rules come into force

New rules approved by the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) to enhance consumer protection in the real estate industry came into effect June 15, 2018. The rules will be enforced by the Real Estate Council of BC and they will ensure that consumers have better information to make informed decisions, and that real estate professionals act with undivided loyalty to serve their clients’ best interest.

Among other things, these rules will:

  • Increase transparency around commissions and who a real estate professional is representing in a transaction; and,
  • Prohibit dual agency, except in limited circumstances.

Overview of Changes to Real Estate Rules
The changes to the rules will impact the way real estate professionals provide services to consumers.

  • Real estate professionals are banned from practicing dual agency (representing both sides of the same deal—e.g. a buyer and seller, two buyers, or a landlord and tenant).
  • An exemption to the ban has been established for remote locations underserved by real estate professionals; here it is not feasible for parties to a trade to be represented by separate real estate agents.
  • Real estate professionals are required to give consumers more information about the services they can expect, the fees/benefits brokerages may earn from the sale, risks they should be aware of and where to go if they have a complaint.

The New Mandatory Disclosures for Consumers

  1. The Disclosure of Representation in Trading Services must be given to consumers before real estate professionals begin working with them, explaining the duties and responsibilities owed to clients and unrepresented parties.
  2. The Disclosure of Risks to Unrepresented Parties must be given to consumers to explain the risks of dealing with a real estate professional who represents another party to the transaction.
  3. The Disclosure to Sellers of Expected Remuneration must be given to sellers with each offer, explaining how the commission will be shared between the seller’s brokerage and the buyer’s brokerage.
  4. The Disclosure of Risks Associated with Dual Agency must be given to consumers in the rare cases of dual agency, explaining the risks of dual agency and how it benefits real estate professionals.
  5. The Agreement Regarding Conflicts of Interest Between Clients can be used when a conflict of interest exists between two current clients of the same real estate professional, where continuing to act for both of them would amount to dual agency.

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia, as the regulator of licensed real estate professionals, is responsible for educating real estate professionals about the requirements and enforcing compliance under the new rules.

May 24, 2018

Listing Inventory for Eastside Houses Increasing!

With the spring housing market upon us, the activity in Vancouver East has increased in both listings and sales. After a very sluggish start to the year, in detached home sales, home buyers became more active in March and April. According to statistics from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, 83 houses were sold on the Eastside in March 2018. 103 detached properties changed hands in April 2018. However, these gains in sales were offset by increases in the number of listings building up in the market. As we go to press, over 800 detached homes are listed for sale. With a sales-to-listings ratio of about 1:8, house prices have weakened slightly. The Home Price Index (HPI) for Vancouver East detached, shows a Benchmark Price of $1,544,100 at the end of April 2018. This is down from the $1,573,500 Benchmark Price in November 2017.

Meanwhile, the Attached-Townhouse and Apartment segments of the housing market have continued to be hot.

As of April 2018, the Benchmark Price of an Eastside Townhouse is up 21.1% compared to prices a year ago, with the HPI reporting an increase of 19.7% year over year for a Vancouver East Apartment.

With stricter lending rules being imposed by the Federal Government since the beginning of 2018, even the Attached sector of the Vancouver East housing market may feel the impact of these changes going forward. For now, at least in the detached segment of the market, home buyers are having more choices in their housing search and the heat of last year’s market has eased.

School Tax
School tax is one of the services you are charged for on your annual property tax notice. The tax isn’t based on if you or your family use the public or private school system. The education system benefits all B.C. residents including people without children in school. You pay school tax to share in the cost of providing education in B.C.

If your property is located within a municipality, you pay school tax to your municipal office. If your property is in a rural area, you pay school tax to the province’s Surveyor of Taxes.

School tax is charged on every property in B.C. unless the property qualifies for an exemption.

Tax Rates
Each year the province sets the residential school tax rate for each school district and is based equally on:

1. The total number of residences in the district
2. The total residential assessed value in the district

Generally, these rates decrease so that average provincial revenues per home only increase by B.C.’s Consumer Price Index rate of inflation.

Each year the province sets the school tax rate for each non-residential property class. Generally, these rates decrease each year as average values within a property class rise faster than inflation.

Additional School Tax on High-Valued Properties
Starting in 2019, an additional school tax applies to most high-valued residential properties in the province, including:

  • Detached homes
  • Stratified condominium or townhouse units
  • Most vacant land

The additional school tax does not apply to non-stratified rental buildings with four or more housing units.

For mixed-use properties, only the residential portion of the property’s assessed value above $3 million will be taxable.

The additional tax rate is:
• 0.2% on the residential portion assessed between $3 million and $4 million
• 0.4% tax rate on the residential portion assessed over $4 million

School Tax Revenue
Revenue from school tax represented approximately 35% of the $5.498 billion spent by the Ministry of Education in 2015/16.

March 28, 2018

BC budget includes new real estate taxes and spending commitments

Housing was the dominant issue in the recent provincial budget.

The government released a 30-point housing strategy aimed at reducing housing demand, curbing tax fraud, building affordable housing, and increasing security for renters.

New tax measures include increasing property taxes and property transfer taxes on residential properties valued above $3 million, expanding the foreign buyer tax, and implementing a housing speculation tax.


The province will:
• Invest $6 billion in affordable housing to create 114,000 homes over the next 10 years.
• Enhance local government capacity to build and retain affordable housing.
• Require developers to collect and report comprehensive information about the assignment of pre-sale condo purchases.
• Track beneficial ownership information.
• Collect additional information to increase transparency and strengthen enforcement in real estate.


Speculation tax:

  • The province will implement a new speculation tax on residential properties, targeting foreign and domestic home owners who don’t pay income tax in BC. This includes those who leave their homes vacant.
  • The tax will apply to the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Capital, and Nanaimo Regional districts and in the municipalities of Kelowna and West Kelowna.
  • In 2018, the tax rate will be $5 per $1,000 of assessed value. In 2019, the tax rate will rise to $20 per $1,000 of assessed value.
  • The province will administer the tax and will collect data to enforce it including, social insurance numbers, household information, and world-wide income information.

Foreign buyer tax:

  • Effective February 21, 2018, the foreign buyer tax will increase to 20% from 15% and will be extended to the Fraser Valley, Capital, Nanaimo, and Central Okanagan Regional Districts.
  • If the property is located in the Capital Regional District, Fraser Valley Regional District, Regional District of Central Okanagan, or Nanaimo Regional District, and the property transfer is registered on or after February 21, 2018, there are transitional rules available.

Property transfer tax (PTT):

  • Effective February 21, 2018, the Property Transfer Tax on residential properties ve $3 million will increase to 5% from 3%.

Provincial school tax:

  • Beginning in 2019, the provincial school tax will increase on most residential properties in excess of $3 million.

Database on pre-sale condo assignments:

  • The province will require developers to collect and report comprehensive information about the assignment of pre-sale condo purchases. The information will be reported to a designated government office and shared with federal and provincial tax authorities to ensure taxes are paid.

Online accommodation PST and MRDT:

  • Online accommodation platforms are enabled to collect and remit the Provincial Sales Tax and Municipal and Regional District Tax (Hotel Room Tax).

Property tax treatment for ALR land:

  • As part of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) review, the province is examining residential land in the ALR to ensure land is used for farming.

Compelling access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS):

  • The province plans to enable tax administrators to compel access to information relevant to property transfers, such as information held in a MLS database.

Beneficial land ownership registry:

  • The province will require additional information about beneficial ownership on the PTT form.
  • Administered by the Land Title & Survey Authority LTSA, the information will be publicly available and shared with federal and provincial tax and law enforcement authorities. Legislation will be introduced to require BC corporations to hold accurate and up to date information on beneficial owners in their own record offices and make it available to law enforcement, tax and other authorities.

The province will work with the federal government to formalize a multi-agency working group on tax evasion, money laundering and housing.

Increased funding to reduce wait time, improve service and deal with disputes more quickly, as well as strengthening the Residential Tenancy Act and the penalties for those who repeatedly break the law.

March 28, 2018

Fewer house buyers for Eastside detached properties!

January and February 2018 proved to be quiet months for sales of detached houses in Vancouver East. According to statistics from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, only 45 Eastside detached homes changed hands in January 2018. Sales edged up to 77 in February 2018. The sluggish sales were assisted by several factors, from inclement weather, to another hike in interest rates from the Bank of Canada.

The Bank of Canada has now increased the trend-setting prime rate by .75% in the last year. The MLS Home Price Index (HPI) shows Eastside house prices easing slightly over the last 6 months. The Benchmark Price for a detached home in Vancouver East sits at $1,560,400 (at the end of February 2018)

The busiest segment of the Eastside housing market has been ATTACHED and APARTMENT sales. Prices for these types of homes continue to rise.

As we finish off the winter market, we can expect listing inventories to build, as the spring market is traditionally the busiest time of year for selling and buying real estate.

As we go to press the listing inventory for Vancouver East detached homes is 636, attached homes are at 132 units and apartments 196. We’ll see if sales keep up with listing inventories with the arrival of spring, 2018.

January 19, 2018

Vancouver’s New Housing Strategy


1. Shift toward the “right supply” by increasing rental and social housing near transit and arterials, like the Broadway corridor, Nanaimo station, 29th Avenue station, and Olympic Village station.  Low-density neighbourhoods will see new infill housing and multiple homes on a single lot, as well as townhouses and low-rise apartments in areas with public amenities.  The city will also implement a Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (see point 3).

2. Limit speculation and stabilize land value by working with senior levels of government to develop tax and financial regulations including a speculation and flipping tax, increased Property Transfer Tax on luxury properties, and closing loopholes around capital gains taxes.

3. Increase rental protection and affordability to ensure rents remain affordable after redevelopment.  The city plans to preserve the existing 90,000 rental homes in Vancouver by lowering the trigger for one-for-one replacement of rentals.  A new Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program will incentivize developers through density bonusing to build 100% rental buildings where 20% of the units are permanently affordable for households earning $30,000-$80,000 annually.  Over the next decade 2,000 co-op homes will also be built.

4. Review city processes for housing, rezoning and development to simplify city approaches.  Reduce processing times and speed up the rezoning and community amenity contributions (CAC) process for market rental development applications.

5. Support diverse ways of living by permitting collective housing by amending the Zoning and Development By-Law to permit six or more unrelated roommates in single-family areas.

6. Provide housing for homeless residents by requesting funding to build 1,200 units of temporary modular housing on city-owned sites in the next two years.

7. Develop a new 10-Year Affordable Housing Delivery and Financial Plan to support development of 12,000 social, supportive and co-op homes.

8. Improve livability of single room occupancy (SRO) hotels by replacing 50% with new self-contained social housing.  The city will also establish an SRO revitalization fund to renovate 10 privately owned buildings.

9. Launch the new Social Purpose Real Estate Incentive Program to support non-profits and co-ops who own their land and buildings to redevelop and expand affordable housing.

10. Build five new Aboriginal housing developments through partnerships with Aboriginal agencies, and create a 10-Year Aboriginal Housing strategy in support of the city’s ongoing efforts for reconciliation.

The strategy builds on measures Vancouver is already taking, including the Empty Homes Tax; short-term rental regulation; and temporary modular housing for low income and homeless residents.

The goal:  72,000 new homes to be delivered in 10 years.

  • 50% of new homes targeted at families earning less than $80,000
  • 29,000 homes (40%) will be for families
  • 48,000 homes (55%) will be for renters
  • 12,000 homes will be social, supportive and non-profit co-operative homes; 4,100 will have supports
  • 20,000 homes will be secure long-term market rental homes
  • 4,000 new laneway homes will provide ground-oriented homes for couples and families

Vancouver has seen rapid home price growth which city officials believe is “fuelled by more than just households looking for primary homes.”

So far, the strategy has been to implement the Empty Homes Tax and the Short-Term Rental regulations.

The next step is a pilot program directed at newly constructed housing for residents who live and work in Vancouver.  This will include:

  • A rezoning policy to require developers to market pre-sale strata units to residents already living and working in Metro Vancouver before units are marketed and sold nationally or internationally; and
  • Additional measures such as requiring the developer to limit bulk sales, and include terms in the contract of purchase and sale to prevent the flipping of assignments for profit

January 15, 2018

East Vancouver Detached Housing Stabilizes

Following strong demand in the late spring of 2017, which resulted in a big price jump, the year ended with Vancouver East detached homes in a more stable market. According to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, 88 houses were sold on the Eastside in December 2017. This is down slightly from the 94 detached sales in November 2017. Meanwhile, the number of Vancouver East houses listed for sale dropped considerably in December 2017. As we go to press in early January 2018, the listing inventory is around 550 units. With a sales-to-listings ratio of about 17%, the new year begins with reasonable demand vs. supply in the Eastside detached market.

Mortgage rates continue to be favourable, despite some increases in 2017. Major lenders are advertising 5 year closed mortgages at rates of about 5%. However, with discounts of 2% or more to qualified home buyers, financing continues to be competitive between lenders.

One of the many Federal Government changes to try to cool the housing markets in Canada’s major cities came into effect on January 1, 2018. Home buyers who don’t require mortgage insurance must still qualify for their mortgage at a higher rate.

Under the new rules from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages will be:

  • The greater of the Bank of Canada’s 5 year benchmark rate or
  • The contractual mortgage rate plus 2%

It will be interesting to see if this new ‘stress test’ negatively impacts the housing market, particularly the condo market, which has been running hot through the latter part of 2017!

November 27, 2017

Detached Home Sales Ease, Condo Sales Boom!

With the prices for Vancouver East detached homes still high, it seems that homebuyers have turned their attention to the condo apartment and townhome markets.  As sales for detached homes have slipped this fall, sales for apartments have been at a frenzied pace.  According to Multiple Listing Service (MLS) statistics from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver 106 detached homes sold in East Vancouver during October 2017.  This is a slight increase in sales from the 95 houses sold in September 2017.

Meanwhile, 150 apartments were sold in October 2017 vs. 129 units in September 2017.  While house prices have eased somewhat from the peak prices of May 2017, condo prices were at an all-time high in October 2017.  This is clearly a result of low inventory vs. high demand.  Multiple offer situations have driven up condo prices nearly 20% from a year ago.  Tougher Federal Government lending rules are coming to mortgage lenders in January 2018.  (See accompanying story).  It seems that Buyers are desperately trying to buy and complete on their purchases prior to January 1, 2018.

In closing, the sales to listings ratio for detached homes on the Eastside stood at about 14% (close to a Buyer’s Market) while the sales to listings for apartments was a whopping 79% (definitely a Seller’s Market).

Detached home sellers need to price their properties sharply today, but prices are still higher than they were at the beginning of the year.  All we can say about the condo apartment market right now is that it is great to be a Seller!

November 27, 2017

New Requirements for uninsured mortgages….

Home buyers who don’t require mortgage insurance—those with a down payment of 20% or more—must still qualify for their mortgage at a higher rate as of January 1, 2018.

Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)  announced these rules changes on October 27, 2017.

Draft changes were released last summer for stakeholder feedback.  The Canadian Real Estate Association provided a submission.

Under the new rules, the minimum qualifying rate for uninsured mortgages will be:

¨ the greater of the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate or

¨ the contractual mortgage rate plus  2%

OSFI will also require lenders to enhance their loan-to-value (LTV) limits and restrict certain lending arrangements designed to circumvent LTV limits.

These changes apply to federally regulated financial institutions and are the final revisions to Guideline B20:  Residential Mortgage Underwriting Practices and Procedures.

There could be a rude surprise for borrowers who signed a purchase and sale agreement for a property closing after December and have not applied for a mortgage before the new rules kick in, according to the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA).

“Unless the OSFI creates an exception for such cases, some of these buyers will have to seek higher-cost non-bank financing to close (or may not be able to close at all),” said CHBA, which is working with officials from the Department of Finance to get OSFI to put transitional rules in place for buyers who find themselves in this situation.

CHBA notes:  “Builders could be left with empty units while buyers could lose their hard earned deposits.”

The new stress test will not apply to home owners renewing their uninsured mortgage with their existing lender.  Home owners who move to a different lender will be treated as a new borrower and will have to qualify at a higher, stress-tested rate.

November 27, 2017

Residential Underground Storage Tanks

How many are still in the ground in BC?  No one knows precisely because they were never registered and there wasn’t a permitting system.  City of Vancouver staff estimate there are between 10,000 and 20,000 still in the ground in Vancouver alone.

Underground storage tanks (USTs) were extensively used until the 1970’s when natural gas became readily available.  They’ve often been forgotten and lie buried in yards and under basements and decks.

Telltale signs of USTs include vent and fill pipes or copper lines sticking out of lawns, or the ground close to buildings.


The life span of a tank is about 25 years.  As tanks age and corrode, the  toxic substances they contain can leak and leach into soil, neighbouring properties, and groundwater.  They can also cause a fire or explosion.

Cleanup costs vary.  There are cases where home owners have paid as much as $123,000, according to Mike Mangan, a real estate lawyer.

In BC, residential fuel storage tanks are regulated by the BC Fire Code, Part 4.

Toxic leaks are governed by the BC Environmental Management Act and the Contaminated Sites Regulation.

Municipalities, including Vancouver, typically also have bylaws, policies, and additional requirements for removing or abandoning tanks.  Local fire departments usually administer them.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s Remediation Liability Overview, those who can be held responsible for causing contamination include the current owner, a previous owner, and even a producer or transporter of the substance that caused the contamination.

Tanks in the City of Vancouver

Tanks still in the ground in Vancouver are regulated by:

¨ The City’s Fire Bylaw which follows a CCME Code of Practices for tank removal and decommissioning; and

¨ The City’s Sewer and Watercourse Bylaw No. 8093, section 5.3, which requires property owners to remove a tank that will not be reused or has been out of service for two years.

Have an interesting idea for a newsletter article? Contact Norm and watch this page regularly for updates!