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Tensions ease around Alberta life lease legislation

St. Albert advocacy group will continue working with Service Alberta minister on regulations
The provincial government released the first budget of its term Thursday.

Life lease holders waiting to be repaid millions of dollars are feeling more confident in the province’s plan to regulate the industry.

The shift comes after Dale Nally, Service Alberta minister and Morinville-St. Albert MLA, reassured lease holders and their families they will not be pushed to the back of the loan repayment line when regulations take effect.  

Members of the Alberta Life Lease Protection Society (ALLPS) previously called for Nally to be removed as the minister responsible for life lease legislation.   

Nally and Premier Danielle Smith met with ALLPS members and former life-lease holders on Thursday April 18.

“[Life lease holders] had a very legitimate concern,” Nally said. “They did not want to see two queues forming, one pre-legislation and one post-legislation. I assured them that that matter will be dealt with in regulation.”

“We'll be putting it in regulation that … we cannot form a second queue just as a form of avoiding penalties.”

In a life lease contract, a lease holder provides a large loan — sometimes as much as $500,000 — in exchange for reduced rent. Most of that payment is returned to the lease holder or the lease holder’s family when the holder moves or dies.

Lease holders living in apartment complexes owned by Christenson Group of Companies have been waiting as long as two years for their loans to be repaid.

The Christenson Group has a policy that a lease holder enters a repayment queue when the holder’s contract ends. Some of those lines have reached longer than 20 people and haven’t budged in months, or in some cases longer than a year.

Bill 12, the Consumer Protection (Life Leases) Amendment Act, that Nally introduced last month would penalize life lease operators with fines of $300,000 per infraction or even two years in prison per infraction if the payments aren’t made within 180 days after a lease is terminated.   

Families and seniors waiting to get their loan money back worried once the legislation passed they would be placed in a second queue and given lower priority.

“We left [Thursday’s] meeting certainly on a positive note,” Nally said. “I assured them that we will continue to listen to them, that they will be involved in the consultation as we write the regulations, and that they will always be front of mind.”

ALLPS president Karin Dowling said the group is happy to continue to work with Nally.

“We thank him for his commitment to … go to bat for us,” she said. “We were very grateful to be able to speak directly to the premier.”

Dowling said some questions remain about how the queues will be managed once the legislation comes into force.

“Those of us in the current queues would not fall under the legislation payout time frame, yet the new terminations would [fall under the payout time frame],” she said. “There seems to be a lot more work needed to make this workable.”

Nally told CTV Edmonton his ministry has met with Christenson Developments owner Greg Christenson 12 times, and he has personally met with Christenson nine times to “put pressure on him to pay everybody back.” 

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