Residential Construction Practices

As part of this government’s commitment to ensure Alberta remains a safe place to live, work and raise a family, Municipal Affairs supports continual improvements in the residential construction industry that will provide reasonable assurance of the safety and construction quality of homes built in Alberta.

In support of this commitment, the Alberta government announced proposed changes to improve the standard of building in Alberta to better protect new home buyers and hold builders more accountable. These changes include:

  • Mandatory new home warranty: The province has consulted with key stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework for mandatory new home warranty programs to enhance what is available to consumers and set minimum provisions and standards. Work on this framework is underway.
  • Fines and limitations period: The Alberta government is proposing the length of time charges may be laid for building code offences be increased from 6 months to 3 years. It is also proposed the maximum fine be increased from $15,000 to up to $100,000 for a first offence and from $30,000 to up to $500,000 for subsequent offences.

Other activities in progress to help improve the standard of building in Alberta include Municipal Affairs' review of the Safety Codes Act, the Safety Codes Council's review of Alberta's inspection system, and building envelope training for all building Safety Codes Officers in the province.

This comprehensive approach strikes the balance between consumer protection and industry responsibility without significantly adding to the price of a home or negatively impacting builders who comply with Alberta's codes.

BACKGROUND:

During the most recent housing boom, Municipal Affairs received a number of complaints from homeowners concerned with the construction quality of their recently built homes. Together with the City of Calgary, the Ministry looked at a sample of 20 residences that had experienced failures with their building envelopes (a home’s outer walls and ceiling). The purpose of the survey was to gain a better understanding of the reasons for these building failures, which can lead to mould growth in homes and be costly to repair. The homes surveyed were all found to be non-compliant with the Alberta Building Code.

Although the results indicated that Alberta Building Code requirements remain appropriate, the survey demonstrated a need for provincial and municipal governments, and the residential construction industry to take steps to safeguard the quality and integrity of new home construction in Alberta.

With this in mind, the Minister of Municipal Affairs established a committee to examine the broader issues facing the residential construction industry. The committee was led by MLA Thomas Lukazsuk and included senior staff from Municipal Affairs, Advanced Education and Technology, Finance and Enterprise, Service Alberta, and Justice.

In the summer/fall of 2008, the committee led a series of consultations with stakeholders from the construction industry, warranty companies, and the Safety Codes Council to gather input. Together they discussed:

  • Accountability of the Construction Industry
  • Consumer Protection and Recourse
  • Appropriate Worker Certification and Skills Development
  • Appropriate Inspection and Enforcement Processes

Recommendations from the committee’s work are contained in this report.