New licensing to protect home buyers

By Sharon McLeay Times Contributor

Residential building contractors and developers will require licenses to build in Alberta as of Dec. 1.
“The builder licensing will require builders to demonstrate they are in good financial standing and have the competencies and skills to work in residential home construction,” stated a spokesperson for Alberta Municipal Affairs. “Combined with mandatory home warranties, builder licensing would improve builder accountability and residential construction quality.”
To qualify, contractors must have built at least two houses within the last two years. It may also apply to those engaged in residential renovations.
Licenses are valid for one year and will cost about $600 with renewals at $500. Unlicensed builders will not be able to obtain building permits. Owner builders do not require a permit to build a home they will reside in, and some charities are exempt.
The move was generated from workshops and input provided to the government, by 1,200 Albertans filling out surveys. The results were compiled and the ruling hopes to protect potential home owners and increase their confidence that homes are properly built. It also aligns with other provinces’ building requirements.
Local contractors are taking a wait-and-see stance.
“I don’t see it as a benefit. If you are an established builder with new home warranties, it is just more that we have to do to qualify to be a builder,” said Barry Nephin of Aquilla Homes.
Nephin said it used to be they could start work two to three weeks into the process and now it has increased to six or eight. The new ruling is expected to increase that delay. He saw the licensing as another type of tax and felt the cost might be passed on to the consumers.
“My concern is there are so many changes that happen in the industry that it is very hard to keep abreast of changes if you are only doing one or two houses a year,” said Nephin. “A lot of the small builders are going away. It is a lot harder for small builders to survive.”
Corey Fehr of Abe Fehr Contracting agreed it will be another worry for small builders.
“It is definitely going to be a challenge for small builders. It definitely begs to consider whether it is worth it to jump through the hoops and this might drive a lot of small business owners out of business,” said Fehr, who added that he thinks in the long term, there will be less choice of contractors for consumers.
Both contractors agreed there are bad contractors out there who take advantage of people.
“Will it make a difference? I don’t know if it will or not,” said Nephin.
Fehr said that people who flout the rules are just going to continue what they are doing.
“They are still going to follow the same moral compass they do at this point,” he said. “The way they are going about this problem is not good for the overall economy, but you can see why they want to deal with the problem.”
Fehr and Nephin thought consumer education and possibly an educational component to the licensing might be a better way to prevent bad building practices.
“There are always people around who can get around the rules,” said Nephin. “The easiest way for these builders to go away is for buyers to ask for references on their previous work.”