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Linda Palfi
CNC Properties
Box 47033 Creekside, Calgary, Alberta
P: 403-998-7732
F: 403-592-8002

New Condominium Act better protects us all


Expanded consumer protection seems to be the catchphrase that best sums up the year 2000 changes to condominium law in Alberta. Improvements include increased disclosure to buyers by the developers of new condo projects, mandatory reserve funds, expanded power for condominium corporation boards and new options to resolve disputes.


Yet in many instances the provision of new or additional information will not serve a public that cannot interpret it. When buying new residential condominium homes, for example, few prospective buyers will know what they should watch for, or understand much of the expanded information that must be included in a developer's purchase agreement.


In short, professional guidance to buyers will be valuable, or perhaps more valuable than before. A professional condominium Realtor, for example, will be paid by most developers out of their marketing budget, so there is no additional cost to you for informed representation during your purchase. Otherwise, there are condominium consulting companies that for a few hundred dollars will analyse your proposed purchase and advise you of any potential issues. Consult these people before you condo shop, to ensure the degree of representation, interpretation and protection you may desire before buying.


With that assistance, if you choose, you'll find a cornucopia of information in the developer's purchase agreement that you intend to sign for your condo dream home. Details will include: *the basis for the unit factors that allocate budget expenses; *most development details, from common-area and exterior finishes to where major utilities will be located; *whether the project is a phased development, and how it will look and be run when all phases are complete.


New protection for the public also includes extensive new trust provisions that require new-condo purchase funds to be held pending completion of the project. And when buyers move in, the builder must show an occupancy permit under Alberta's Safety Codes Act. In other words, we'll see fewer people moving into projects where scaffolding looms overhead and workers are still required to wear hardhats!


Mostly, of course, people have never needed these extensive protective provisions. Alberta's major condo project developers are largely reputable, while some are downright award-winning builders. Those companies will likely take advantage of the new law's provisions allowing creation of in?house buyer protection programs approved by the provincial Minister. These will lay out what happens to your purchase money, how buyers are protected and under what circumstances refunds may be issued.


Whether good builder or bad, however, Alberta's new condominium law imposes on builders and buyers alike a duty to deal fairly with each other, as per another new law called the Fair Trading Act. And let's not kid ourselves--while we talk mainly of problems with developers, all of us buyers aren't angels, either! The knife of fair dealing cuts both ways, so don't go buying condos with rubber cheques or meddlesome intentions.


If trouble arises, remember that there is no "condo cop" in Alberta. There is no agency or office that specifically handles complaints or presses charges for infractions. The legislation is what they call "self-policing". If you don't know what the rules are, you won't know if any are being broken. If you find yourself in a problem, the government could?technically?sue on your behalf, but it's most likely going to be up to you.


Let's close on one specific caution regarding buying a new condominium home. It's commonly believed that when you sign a new condo home purchase agreement, you have 10 clear days to rescind your purchase without cause?although that must be done in writing under the new law. ?Not quite so! You have 10 days to back out from the time you receive the condominium documents. In other words, if you go to a show suite one Saturday and take home the documents, then go back the subsequent Saturday and agree to purchase, you only have three days left to change your mind. Like I said, protection that you don't know about or don't understand protects you a lot less than if you do.


In other articles on this web site I review Alberta's new Condominium Property Act further, focusing on improvements in condo governance, management, required reserve funds, and reserve-fund studies. All in all, condominium living continues to provide Albertans with more and better housing that is often affordable, well built, well run, and well maintained. If you'll buy in, give me a call.

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