Proposed Alberta bill promotes buyer protection

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

New legislation was proposed in Alberta last week that would establish a builder licensing program to help consumers identify which home builders they can trust, and which they should avoid.

If passed, the New Home Buyer Protection Amendment Act would require builders to maintain an active licence to build new homes and secure warranty coverage. They would also need to show they are knowledgeable in home construction and are in good financial standing.

The bill would also create an online registry of licenced builders to help homebuyers select a reputable builder. As set out in the existing home warranty program, owner-builders, or people who build their own homes, would not be required to have a licence.

“CHBA – Alberta is looking forward to working in partnership with the provincial government on including licensing as part of the New Home Buyer Protection Act,” said Ryan Scott, president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Alberta, in a press release. “While there is still plenty of work to be done, the ability to remove builders who demonstrate a proven, negative track record will be a benefit to every Albertan – including those in the industry. Our members have always been on the leading edge of the industry, including requiring warranty coverage for more than 40 years. We want to make sure that licensing protects affordability and choice for Albertans – while also recognizing the many upstanding builders providing homes and jobs throughout the province.”

At present, there are no minimum qualifications to be a builder in Alberta, and there are approximately 4,000 residential builders currently operating in the province. Although Alberta is only home to about 12 per cent of Canada’s population, it has 20 per cent of the country’s housing starts, with 22,632 housing starts in the province in 2016 alone. Annually, almost $8 billion is invested in new residential construction in Alberta.

“CCI North Alberta is very pleased that the Alberta government is proposing legislation that will protect new condominium owners,” added Anand Sharma, president of the Canadian Condominium Institute – North Alberta. “This type of consumer protection legislation has been desperately needed for decades. It will hold developers accountable for poor building practices and allow condominium boards to prevent large special assessments. It will make a tangible difference in protecting consumers.”

The enhanced builder information program was launched in June 2016 to support home reconstruction in Fort McMurray. This program helped create a foundation for builder licensing in Alberta. It requires builders to complete a declaration through the New Home Buyer Registry before applying for a building permit. All declarations are posted online to allow consumers to make an informed decision when selecting a builder. To date, more than 190 declarations have been submitted by builders.

Government consulted with stakeholders on a builder licensing program in February and March through focus groups and an online survey. More than 1,200 respondents in Alberta completed the survey, with 78 per cent supporting builder licensing.

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