Casual Legal: Adding enforcement costs to the tax roll

By Sean Ward
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

Where municipalities issue an order to remedy contraventions or an order to remedy dangers and unsightly property, the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has traditionally allowed municipalities to apply the costs of enforcing those orders against the tax roll of the offending property. However, it is worth noting that recent amendments to the MGA may leave municipalities without the express ability to do so in some cases.

There are two types of orders to remedy under the MGA. Section 545 allows a municipality to issue an order to remedy a contravention of a bylaw, the MGA or other enactment the municipality can enforce. Section 546 allows a municipality to issue an order to eliminate a danger to public safety or to deal with unsightly property. Section 549 of the MGA then provides that if a person fails to comply with the order, the municipality may take whatever actions or measures are necessary to remedy those problems, at the expense of the person who caused the contravention and failed to comply with the order.

The MGA then sets out the circumstances in which a municipality may add amounts to the tax roll of a parcel of land in sections 553 and 553.1. Previously, there were separate subsections in each of ss. 553 and 553.1 that would allow for the costs of enforcing an order under ss. 545 or 546 to be added to the applicable tax roll. However, recent legislative changes have removed any express ability to add to the tax roll the costs of eliminating a danger to public safety or addressing unsightly property as provided for in an order pursuant to section 546.

After the legislative amendments, section 553(1)(c) and section 553.1(a)(c) now both refer to the ability to add to the tax roll unpaid costs and expenses arising from section 549(5)(a) of the MGA. That section refers only to the costs of measures taken by a municipality to remedy a contravention of a bylaw or enactment (i.e., an order pursuant to section 545). There is no reference to unpaid costs and expenses arising from section 549(5)(b) of the MGA, which deals with the costs of an order pursuant to section 546.

This appears to be an oversight, which could be easily addressed by future amendments. In the interim, however, municipalities should think about how they approach enforcement orders in light of this legislative gap. In many cases, unsightly property may also be a breach of a municipal bylaw, such as a Community Standards or Nuisance Bylaw. In those cases, municipalities would be better served issuing an order pursuant to section 545, and not section 546, as a means of ensuring if their costs of enforcement are unpaid they may still add them to the tax roll in accordance with the MGA.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.