vacant home tax toronto

People in Toronto complain of unfair vacant home tax process that is costing some thousands

Many Toronto homeowners are suddenly being confronted with thousands of dollars in unexpected vacant home taxes this month after the declaration deadline — which they say was not made clear by the City — came and went.

The levy, which was passed in 2021 and kicked off at the beginning of 2022, requires those who own property in the city to confirm whether they or someone else is living in their house, condo, or townhouse. If it is sitting empty, a municipal tax (of one per cent of the home's value for the 2023 taxation year, and three per cent for 2024) applies.

The idea is to charge those contributing to the housing crisis by sitting idly on much-needed units, and also ideally discourage at least some buyers from purchasing up usable housing as an investment with no plans to live there or make it available to renters.

But, it seems that some of those being penalized with the tax shouldn't be.

Social media is abuzz with complaints this week from owners who either occupy their own residence or rent it out long-term, yet have gotten hit with bills in the thousands.

The reason is the passed deadline, which some are arguing is too easy to miss — and which the City itself has admitted leads to tens of thousands of units being declared vacant by default when they may not actually be.

The tax has been touted as a success for all of the revenue it has garnered for the City, but in a fall 2023 status update suggesting that it be raised, staff admitted that a whopping 44,902 properties had failed to provide a declaration for the 2022 tax year and were thus deemed empty, whether they were or not.

This is compared to the mere 2,336 owners who had actually declared their homes vacant at the time of the report.

This year, the City decided to extend the deadline to submit vacancy status from February 29 to March 15 to "give homeowners every opportunity to make their declaration before VHT Notices of Assessment are mailed," as only around 63 per cent of affected residents had filed declarations.

But some people are saying they never received a letter asking them to declare or notifying them of the deadline. And, a few of those trying to resolve the issue are finding it unnecessarily difficult.

Many are expressing particular concern for seniors, who can be more likely to miss or misunderstand digital correspondence, which is all that some residents say that they received to let them know the deadline was coming up.

One person stated that they received one single email from the City about the impending deadline to declare, which they didn't see, and which they initially dismissed as a scam.

Another pointed out that the filing process, which is online, has left many older homeowners in the dark.

Those interested in disputing their vacant home status can file a notice of complaint on the City of Toronto website, for which there is a small administrative fee.

Lead photo by

Real Estate Homeward, Brokerage/Strata.ca


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