According to the Local Government Act (LGA), a Community Heritage Register identifies “real property” that possesses heritage value and character. The term “real property” is not easily understood and this sometimes results in a restricted interpretation or a narrow implementation of a Community Heritage Register. The following examples illustrate that there is more breadth to the definition of “real property” than is sometimes understood.
The LGA includes a definition that reads: “real property includes buildings, structures and other improvements affixed to the land.”
The Community Charter offers this definition: “real property means land, with or without improvements so affixed to the land as to make them in fact and law a part of it.”
Real property is a subset of Canadian property law, which also includes personal property. The Canadian Encyclopedia addresses both types, “Real property (or realty) is land, any buildings on that land, any mineral rights under the land, and anything that is attached to the land or buildings that can be considered permanent. Personal property (sometimes known as chattels) includes any property that is not real property.” (source)
A University of Toronto resource guide says real property “refers to real estate or realty law, [and] deals with immovable property in the form of land, buildings, fixtures, etc.” (source)
The Province of British Columbia describes real property in a tax bulletin (source): “Real property is land and anything that is attached to the land so it becomes part of real property after installation (i.e. ceases to be personal property at common law). This would normally include buildings, structures, and things, such as machinery or equipment, that are attached to the land (or to buildings or structures) by some means other than their own weight.”
This bulletin also offers examples:
While the bulletin was prepared for a specific purpose (provincial tax application by real property contractors), it nevertheless helps to provide further clarity.
Finally, the example of watercraft can provide further clarity. Based on the preceding information, a vessel cannot be considered real property if it is still in the water, as it is not fixed to the land and it is moveable. However, if the vessel is permanently dry-docked, and therefore immovable, it can be considered real property. Assuming the vessel meets other criteria, it is now eligible for heritage consideration according to the LGA.
This is, in fact, the case for the S.S. Moyie, which is on display on the shore of the Kootenay Lake and is included on the provincial and national registers.
In addition to many man-made structures, the BC Register of Historic Places includes other types of heritage resources, such as parks, watercraft, rivers, and trees. (The map of the BC Register of Historic Places can be found here.) Examples of recognized heritage assets that have met LGA requirements are:
Please note, Heritage BC is not proposing a legal definition of the term “real property” or providing advice. Our aim is to support local governments in developing Community Heritage Registers and understanding the breadth of implementation. Local governments should seek legal advice as required.