The deadline for Toronto homeowners to declare whether or not their property is occupied has been extended until the end of the month, Mayor John Tory has announced.
Homeowners were supposed to make their declarations by today and could have faced fines of $250 for doing so after the deadline.
But during an unrelated press conference on Thursday, Mayor John Tory confirmed that the city has extended the deadline until the end of February.
“There will be no fines issued during that time and so I hope that what this will encourage people to do is to fill out the form so they won’t have to pay this tax,” Tory said. “If they can just do that it will help avoid a lot of calls and emails later that people don’t want.”
Tory said that about 84.5 per cent of all households have already made their declarations, however that would mean that tens of thousands of homeowners still need to complete the paperwork.
If they don’t do so by the end of February the city will assume that their properties are vacant and a tax of one per cent of their home’s assessed value would then be applied to the property tax bill mailed out in the spring.
Speaking with reporters on Thursday, Tory stressed that the goal of the new vacant home tax isn’t to generate revenue. Instead, he said the hope is that it is successful at convincing the owners of vacant properties to either rent or sell them.
Staff have previously estimated that the tax will bring in between $55 and $66 million annually, with that money then being directed towards affordable housing initiatives.
“I don't care if anybody pays this tax if units, thousands of units, could come back on the housing market in the City of Toronto. Think of the difference that would make if thousands of units were available to us because people did not want to pay this tax,” Tory said.
Letters went out to all Toronto homeowners months ago advising them to submit a declaration either by paper or online.
A declaration is not required if the property does not contain a residential unit (such as a property locker or parking lot).
A property is considered vacant if it was not used as a principal residence by the owner, or any other permitted occupants or tenants for a total of six months or more during the previous calendar year. A property can also be considered vacant if the owner fails to make a declaration of occupancy status.
While all homeowners are required to submit a declaration, the tax does not apply to principle residences or properties that qualify for an exemption, such as in the case of a person who has not been home because they are receiving medical treatment or because renovations are underway.