Government proposing 50 changes to Alberta’s condo property law

The Alberta government has unveiled an overhaul of its condominium law, but a condo-owners advocate says it doesn’t go far enough to protect consumers.

Bill 9, the Condominium Property Amendment Act tabled in the legislature Monday, proposes 50 changes to the condominium property law to help buyers.

Some of the key amendments:

• Improve consumer protection with broader information disclosure to buyers, including home warranty information, occupancy dates and notice of changes to the purchase agreement.

• Developers must deposit buyers’ deposits with an authorized trustee, pay their fair share of condo fees for unsold units and have a professional building assessment on buildings converted to condos.

• Improve board governance with clear voting procedures, required notice of annual general meetings, owners’ meetings to replace board members and notice of insurance changes.

• Delegate authority to the Real Estate Council of Alberta to regulate and set standards for condo managers.

• Develop a clear scope of government authority and stiffen penalties for offences.

• Create a framework for a dispute resolution tribunal as an alternative to courts.

“A new tribunal will offer a faster and more accessible dispute resolution process,� Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan said Tuesday.

“Developers have stronger obligations such as mandatory assessments of buildings converted to condos. Better governance includes clear voting procedures and rules and managers will have standardized knowledge. Enhanced investigation and enforcement will be backed by higher penalties.�

Khan said he hopes the bill passes in the current sitting and regulations will be put in place within a year after consulting with affected groups.

Changes to Alberta’s condo law were first tabled in May in the now dead Bill 13. Over the summer, stakeholders were invited to review and provide input on the proposed changes, but Bill 13 died on the order paper in September after Premier Jim Prentice prorogued, or discontinued, the previous legislature session.

June Donaldson, a condo-owner advocate, called the new bill disappointing.

“It’s certainly an improvement over the existing, but it is a far cry from what we need to support condo owners in the years ahead,� said Donaldson, who co-founded the Alberta Condo Owners Association, but has since stepped away from the group.

Donaldson worries the proposed dispute resolution tribunal will only deal with issues identified in the act, meaning condo owners will have to resort to costly court battles to resolve other conflicts.

“There are many things that come up in condo living that might not come up in the act,� she said. “I want that tribunal addressing real-life, day-to-day condo conflicts … that relate to parking issues, pet issues and smoky fireplaces.�

Donaldson said the new bill also doesn’t mention licensing of condo managers.

“There’s no teeth in overseeing condo managers,� she said.

Service Alberta spokesman Scott Seymour said the amendments do allow for licensing of condo managers and the details on the scope and authority of the dispute resolution tribunal will be determined during development of its regulations.

“We expect that issues arising from “day-to-day� living will be handled by the tribunal,� he said in an email.

In Alberta, there are more than 8,000 condominium corporations in operation. Condominiums account for approximately 20 per cent of homes sold annually and one in three homes sold in Edmonton and Calgary are condos.

An industry group representing Alberta homebuilders said it was pleased the government is modernizing legislation governing the growing condo sector.

“Now that the Condominium Property Act has been introduced in the legislature, we will begin a detailed review and we look forward to working with Service Alberta Minister Stephen Khan to ensure the legislation meets the need of homebuyers,� said Jim Rivait, CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Alberta, in a release.

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