Sellers Beware

To avoid costly complications on closing a real estate sale, sellers should take all necessary steps to ensure that all required development and building permits have been issued.

When a seller enters into a standard real estate agreement, he warrants that (a) the current use of the land and the location of all buildings comply with existing municipal bylaws and land use regulations, and (b) buildings do not encroach on adjacent property (including lanes and roadways) nor on any easement or utility right of ways that may be on the property. The agreement also makes the seller responsible to provide the buyer with a Real Property Report and written evidence of municipal compliance.

The Real Property Report (prepared by an Alberta Land Surveyor) shows the location of all improvements on the land. Upon request, the municipal planning department checks the location of the improvements for violations of the Land Use Bylaws and for the issuance of development and building permits.

The three most common land use violations are (1) improvements made without a development permit or building permit, (2) improvements such as sheds and decks which do not meet side yard requirements; and (3) improvements such as sheds and additions to main buildings that are not permitted because they reduce the side yard requirements of the main building.

The first violation can usually be cured simply by making an application to the municipality for development and building permits. The second and third will require either moving the improvement to comply with the side yard rules or getting a development permit to leave the improvement as built with a relaxation of the side yard requirements. This may require an appeal to the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. If the development permit cannot be obtained, the only recourse is to remove the offending improvement.

The prudent seller of property will ensure that they have an up-to-date Real Property Report and Building Compliance Certificate in hand before the property is listed for sale.