Bill promising 'cooling-off period' for B.C. home buyers passes in legislature despite lack of details

·2 min read
A 'sold' sign is pictured outside a Chilliwack, B.C. home in November 2021. This week, B.C. Legislature quietly passed Bill 12, which government says offers homebuyers a 'cooling-off period' in which they can back out of the sale with little to no penalty. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A 'sold' sign is pictured outside a Chilliwack, B.C. home in November 2021. This week, B.C. Legislature quietly passed Bill 12, which government says offers homebuyers a 'cooling-off period' in which they can back out of the sale with little to no penalty. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A bill promising to protect B.C. home buyers has quietly passed through the provincial legislature despite being short on specific policy details.

Bill 12, which amends the Property Law Act, looks to provide purchasers with a "cooling-off period," in which buyers can change their minds and cancel the purchase with little-to-no legal consequences for a limited period of time, according to the provincial government.

But while the bill holds significant ramifications for real estate transactions in the province, consultations with key stake holders meant to inform the legislation have yet to conclude.

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson, who tabled the bill, told the legislature this week that government was moving "urgently" due to the high level of activity in the housing market.

Mike McArthur/CBC
Mike McArthur/CBC

"We want to make sure that consumers are protected," said Robinson when asked about the government's expediency.

"We're seeing 70, 80 per cent of offers have no conditions. That's a tremendous risk for those who are making a significant purchase and we want to make sure they have the information they need."

The year 2021 saw annual home sales spike in the province with 124,854 residential sales recorded, a 32.8 per cent increase from the previous year.

Opposition housing critic Mike Bernier, however, says the bill amounts to a "blank piece of paper" that offers little confidence to consumers.

"If the government had actually done their due diligence, brought forward a piece of legislation that had itemized details of how this was truly going to help purchasers, help people in British Columbia, help families, it would have something that we definitely could've supported," he said.

In November, the B.C. Financial Services Authority was tasked with conducting the consultation that would define the bill's parameters, including a review of the blind bidding system, which can significantly raise the price of purchase.

The Finance Ministry told CBC it is unclear when exactly the BCFSA report will be completed.

Lack of details a common practice, says minister

Asked about the lack of details, Robinson told CBC there were "many times [government] had passed legislation" without details, such as the prescribed number of days buyers might have to back out.

She added that specific elements will be added to the bill once government has the BCFSA report.

Kevin Li/CBC
Kevin Li/CBC

University of British Columbia political science professor Gerald Baier, meanwhile, acknowledges the government is giving haste, but says it's better to give the public clarity.

"Ideally, the legislative process should give people a pretty good idea of the intent of the legislation — and I think that's sort of what's missing here," he said.

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