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Professional Standards Manual

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3. Acting For Buyers

(n) Items Affecting A Property - View Entire Section

(I) Issues Affecting an Owner’s Interests - View Subsection
(5) Heritage Conservation Act

While the intent of the Heritage Conservation Act with respect to archaeological sites is to balance a respect for heritage and a property owner’s right to develop, some private landowners may face costly archaeological studies and/or limited use of their land.

The Heritage Conservation Act is concerned with activities that may alter heritage sites automatically protected under the legislation. While it is not likely to affect properties where there is no intended change of use, it could have an impact where a change in that use is contemplated (e.g., subdivision, new construction, construction of an addition or pool).

If the intent of a property owner or potential buyer is to subdivide the property, then, as part of the process of subdivision, the proposal may be referred by the local municipality or regional district to the Archaeology Branch (of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts) to determine if an archaeological assessment is recommended. The cost of such an assessment would be borne by the property owner and can be substantial.

Further, the Local Government Act gives municipalities and regional districts the power to pass bylaws to withhold the issuance of building permits if they would result in an alteration to protected heritage property.

Licensees should be aware that archaeological sites are not at this time commonly noted on the title of affected properties. However, the statute applies regardless of whether or not the notice is registered on title.

What significance does this have for licensees? Based on court decisions in similar situations, it is likely that a court would find a licensee has a duty to know whether there are archaeologically sensitive areas in the community in which they work and, if so, whether a search for archaeological sites may provide necessary information for a seller or a buyer.

The first potential source of that information is the local municipality or regional district. However, not all municipalities and regional districts maintain up-to-date information respecting archaeological sites. The second source is the Archaeology Branch. Its website ( contains a broad range of information on the Heritage Conservation Act and its application, including a Data Request Form for requesting information about specific sites. Most requests for information about a specific site can be answered within four to five days. More detailed enquiries may require up to two weeks.

Licensees can also request from the Archaeology Branch a copy of a map that identifies registered sites in a specific region of the province. These sites are more likely to be clustered around existing urban areas, major rivers or other waterways, and other areas that are most attractive for human habitation.

A prudent licensee working with a buyer who becomes interested in a particular property will want to determine if the proposed use or redevelopment of that property will result in ground alteration that might be affected by Heritage Conservation Act. If the buyer does intend to alter the use, the following clause should be incorporated into the Contract of Purchase and Sale:

Heritage Conservation Act Clause

Subject to the Buyer satisfying himself/herself on or before(date) regarding the potential effect of the Heritage Conservation Act on the use and/or development of the property.

This condition is for the sole benefit of the Buyer.

Ω If not using the standard form Contract of Purchase and Sale, refer to ‘‘Contracts under Seal’’.

The Archaeology Branch may be contacted as follows:

Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Archaeology Branch

PO Box 9375, Stn. Prov. Govt.

Victoria, B.C. V8W 9M5

Tel: 250-952-5021

Fax: 250-952-4188