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How can I subdivide a property?

Subdividing a property in British Columbia can be a complicated process.

First, what constitutes a subdivision? A subdivision is created when you do any of the following:

- combine two or more properties into one lot

- adjust an existing property line

- create several lots from one or more properties

- create several strata lots from one or more properties

- create several lots with the creation of a road on your property

In British Columbia, there are several different types of subdivisions.

- A Conventional (Fee Simple) Subdivision is where the original owner of the lot retains full ownership and control of the property.

- A Strata Subdivision is where fee simple land is divided into multiple units, with all unit owners having the right to use common elements of the property. Bare Land Strata is a strata subdivision with no houses existing on the property. A Building Strata only needs approval if the building was previously occupied. A Phased Strata is the development of lots on parcels of land in two or more phases.

- Co-operative Association/Shared Interest is where developers sell shares in a land owning corporation, owned as a co-operative association.

- First Nations Reserves- These properties usually fall under federal jurisdiction, unless it confirms to Part 24 of the Land Titles Act

- Leases- Any lease exceeding three years, or with an option to exceed three years are considered subdivisions, and must be approved.

For all of these subdivisions, it is given that the owner not only owns the land, but the space directly above and below it for ordinary use of the land. Also falling under subdivisions is accreted land, where a lot has been enlarged due to natural causes (such as out of a sea or river).

To create a subdivision, you will need to hire a commissioned land surveyor, a member of the British Columbia Corporation of Land Surveyors (BCLS) to subdivide your land. BCLS members are listed at the BCLS website or in the Yellow Pages under "Surveyors-Land." You may want to go to the engineering department of your municipality or regional district to check on any restrictions or requirements on the development of your land, or ask your surveyor to do this on your behalf.

In addition, all subdivisions must be approved by an Approving Officer, who will ensure that the subdivision will follow provincial acts and regulations, as well as local government bylaws. There are three types of approving officers, and the type of approving officer that you will need will depend on where your land is located. Municipal Approving Officers handles subdivisions within municipalities. Regional District and Island Trust Approving Officers handles subdivisions within the boundaries of those local governments that have assumed the rural subdivision authority. Ministry of Transportation Provincial Approving Officers handle the subdivisons in rural areas located outside the Regional District and Island Trust's boundaries. 

For more information on the process of subdivision and development applications in BC, please review the Subdivision Application Guide, which is produced by the Provincial Government at:

Do you have any other questions related to subdividing? Click here to contact a NIHO Land specialist for more answers.