Vacant Business Properties
Whereas derelict, vacant commercial properties can be an obstacle to the positive economic, social, and cultural development of a community; and
Whereas The Municipalities Act and The Northern Municipalities Act do not provide specific authority for municipalities to penalize owners who permit vacant, derelict properties to remain in a state of neglect; and
Whereas it is desirable to have The Municipalities Act and The Northern Municipalities Act amended to provide municipalities the option of introducing a Bylaw to motivate the owners of vacant, derelict properties to improve and maintain such properties to an acceptable standard;
Therefore, be it resolved that SUMA advocate the Government of Saskatchewan to amend The Municipalities Act and The Northern Municipalities Act to allow municipalities to create bylaws that:
1. Add an empty building fee onto vacant, derelict properties.
2. Allow for inspections of the exterior of vacant buildings without notice.
3. Establish mandatory maintenance standards for vacant buildings.
ACTS AFFECTED: The Municipalities Act, The Northern Municipalities Act
REGION/SECTOR AFFECTED: Towns, Villages, Resort Villages
- The Municipalities Act grants municipalities a wide range of power and autonomy to adopt and enforce bylaws within their communities. These powers must be balanced with the rights of individuals and property owners.
- Currently, municipalities can pass nuisance bylaws which can include provisions related to ruinous or dilapidated buildings. Under these provisions, a municipality could include maintenance standards that apply to all properties, including vacant buildings. Municipalities can also pass bylaws related to the abandonment or removal of any building or structure.
- The Construction Codes Act also contains provisions related to buildings and enforcement, as it provides the legal framework to ensure safe buildings. Enforcement provisions under The Construction Codes Act are conducted by a licensed building official on behalf of the municipality.
- Unless a situation poses an imminent threat, property should not be inspected without reasonable attempts to provide notice. When there is imminent danger or in an emergency, The Municipalities Act and The Construction Codes Act each contain provisions that allow the municipality to act expeditiously in these situations, including without notice.
- If a building, vacant, derelict or otherwise, is considered to be unsafe, subsection 24(5) of The Construction Codes Act allows a building official to undertake any action necessary to eliminate the danger. If this occurs, the municipality may add any expenses incurred in doing so to the property taxes of the assessed owner.
- An individual's right to appeal an order to remedy is an important component of the bylaw enforcement process. Adding an empty building fee onto properties that are not unsafe or do not pose imminent danger would bypass the property owners' right of appeal, would not reflect the cost of administration and enforcement of the bylaw and could be challenged.
- Municipalities are encouraged to use existing powers under the current bylaw enforcement process outlined by The Municipalities Act and The Construction Codes Act to ensure the safety of vacant or derelict properties and work with property owners to remedy unsafe situations.