Types of Subdivision

There are five basic types of subdivisions:

Fee Simple Subdivision

A land estate in which the owner is entitled to the entire property with unconditional power of disposition except as limited by the original grant or contained in any other grant or disposition from the Crown. A fee-simple subdivision results in a separate indefeasible title for each lot created under the Land Title Act.


A development where fee simple land is divided into multiple units, with all unit owners having a right to use common elements. Under the category of strata properties, there are three subtypes, as follows:

Bare land Strata

This is a strata subdivision where no buildings currently exist.  Some parcels of it will be held individually, while others will be considered common area.

Building strata

The strata plan for a building not previously occupied does not need the approval of the Approving Officer or other approving authority.  See Section 241(1) of the Strata Property Act.

The strata plan for a building that has been previously occupied requires the approval of the approving authority (the regional board, for land not located in a municipality).

Phased strata

A phased strata plan involves the development of strata lots on one or more separate parcels of land in two or more phases.  A strata plan is deposited for each separate phase.  Upon deposit in the local Land Title Office, the land in the relevant phase is subdivided from the remainder of the lands yet to be developed.  Successively developed phases are automatically consolidated upon deposit of the phase strata plan, and the strata corporation for each new phase is automatically consolidated with the strata corporation governing previous phases. 

The system provides the owner developer with a degree of flexibility by enabling them to decide whether or not to proceed with each successive phase.  It also aims to ensure that adequate provisions are made for any common facilities to be provided in the development.

In certain types of development, such as major base development on ski hills, there must be an acceptable standard for the public approach road and adequate parking within the development.  It is also important to ensure that legal access is provided to each phase being created and maintained to the remainder of the lands yet to be developed.  Alternative access for emergency vehicles should also be a consideration.

Cooperative Association / Shared Interest

Under the Real Estate Development Marketing Act, developers can sell shares in a land-owning company. The company share method of land ownership is called a cooperative association.

If a developer offers shared interest in land for sale or lease, Section 8 of the Real Estate Development Marketing Act takes effect and the Approving Officer's approval is required. The plan should meet the requirements of the Bare Land Strata RegulationsBC Reg. 75/78 and policies governing strata subdivision.

Indian Reserves

On Indian Reserves, the subdivision of land lies under federal jurisdiction unless it conforms to Part 24 of the Land Title Act. 

A federal order-in-council is required before the roads come under provincial jurisdiction.

In recent years, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have undertaken subdivision on Indian reserves, thereby formally recording tribal subdivision. These subdivisions may show some roads, but they are not public roads. The Provincial Approving Officer does not generally approve these plans. For more information, see Indian Reserves


Under Section 73(1) of the Land Title Act leases exceeding three years or with an option to extend past three years are considered subdivisions under the Land Title Act and must be approved by an Approving Officer.

The Agricultural Land Commission or local government, if delegated the authority, may require a lifetime lease covenant. This type of lease is a charge upon the property and expires when the leaseholder or owner dies. The charge is not released automatically upon the death of the leaseholder, but must be released by the Agricultural Land Commission. See also Covenants.

A lease registered at the Land Title Office is subject to the same Land Title Act requirements as a fee simple lot. However, access via alternative methods (described under “Alternatives to Public Roads) may be more applicable than with fee simple lots.

Other types of subdivision occasionally encountered include the following:

Air Space Parcels

An owner of land not only owns the surface but also the space above and below. Although upper and lower limits for a standard parcel of land are not clearly defined or delineated on a plan, the courts have generally accepted that these ownership rights extend above and below the surface as necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land.

The definition of an air space parcel in Section 138 of the Land Title Act is “ a volumetric parcel, whether or not occupied in whole or in part by a building or other structure, shown as such in an air space plan”. This would include clearly defined upper and lower limits and side boundaries that are marked on the air space plan as shown in Figure 1.  The purpose of creating air space parcels is for the occupation of the volumetric space by a permanent structure, such as a building or overpass, or to preclude anyone else from using the volume of space, such as a flight path for an airport runway.  The aerial walkways linking department stores to their parking lots across the street in downtown Vancouver are examples of very simple air space parcels. 

An air space parcel may consist wholly of air space, or air space and land, or possibly air space, land and water.  Subject to practical constraints and certain rules and regulations, an air space parcel may take any shape and become very complex.  If an air space parcel were used to legally separate two or more components of a multi-use development, the boundaries would follow the configuration of that component of the development.

Figure 1            EXAMPLE OF AN AIR SPACE PLAN

Source: Butler, Grant B.C.L.S. Proposed B.C. Hydro Burnaby Office Complex Southpoint air space parcels, 1991.

Accreted Land

Accretion is the growth in size of a land area, usually by the gradual and imperceptible accumulation of land by natural causes, such as out of the sea or a river. Under common law, the property owner owns the accreted land but has to gain title to it.

Sections 94 to 96 of the Land Title Act allow property owners to gain title to accretions by subdivision plan if the Surveyor General consents. This is a simpler procedure than that prescribed by the Land Titles Inquiry Act, which is used if the Surveyor General opposes.

Adding the accretion to one existing lot by consolidation does not require the approval of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. If a subdivision to create two or more lots is proposed at the same time, however, it is treated as an ordinary subdivision.  Note that such properties may be subject to a risk of flooding or other associated hazards.

The Surveyor General certifies the accretion after the plan has gone to the Registrar of the Land Title Office.

Subdivision by Description

Section 99(a) of the Land Title Act provides for the Registrar to accept subdivisions by description only. A parcel can be subdivided only once using a description or explanatory plan. Only one new lot and a remainder can be created. There cannot be any road dedication.

The following also apply:

  • The applicant must complete Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Form H236 Subdivision by Metes and Bounds Description.
  • If a covenant is required, a Section 219 notation must be added to the Form H236
  • The applicant should be encouraged to check wording and acceptability of description with the Registrar before final submission to the Approving Officer.

Subdivision of Land for Relatives

Under Section 514 of the Local Government Act, a person may subdivide to produce a lot on which a separate residence will be constructed for a relative. The minimum size of the lot is one hectare unless the Medical Health Officer approves a smaller lot, which can be no less than 2500 m2. If the property is assessed as farmland, the remainder may not be reduced below two hectares.

Other bylaw provisions apply to subdivisions both in and outside the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Land in the ALR is treated differently from land outside it. (See also Farmland)

This guide is a living document; it is subject to change without notice. Please check the Rural Subdivisions Website (http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/DA/Subdivision_Home.asp) to make sure you version is sufficiently current.