What follows is a sad, but true, story regarding the City of Edmonton.
As part of our due diligence for one of our listings, we called the City this week looking for information, specifically if they have any records of permits on the property.
The City clerk asks for the municipal address to the property and pulls up on her computer. Although she is looking at the file, she says she cannot tell us anything about the property unless we physically go to the City planning department and pay a $108 fee. Understandably there is a cost with operating their system and access to it comes with a price, but we simply want to know if there is anything even on file. We don’t want to pay $108 just to find out there aren’t any records. It would be a seemingly quick yes or no response, but we are informed this is a “City of Edmonton policy” and reminded we can go to the City and pay $108 for access.
Okay fine, can’t fight City Hall. But it gets worse.
We ask if this search of property report will contain all the information the City has on the property. The answer? Hard no. We’re informed that the City went to a new database a few years ago and only some documents were transferred and many of the older files are still in archives. This leads to the option of paying a larger fee and waiting 5 – 10 business days, with no guarantee that there is actually anything in the archives.
To summarize: We were looking to see if a building had any history of permits. A clerk requires a fee to let us know if there are any on file, or if she’s looking at a blank screen. Since their new system hasn’t archived all the files, we then have to pay another fee and wait up to 2 weeks to get an unknown amount of documents (or possibly nothing at all). If there’s nothing there, it does not necessarily mean there aren’t any historical permits, it just means that thecataloging might not have been done correctly (or at all).
Naturally, every property within the city is unique and might contain a full spectrum of information. However, an ongoing trend we’ve noticed is how seemingly disorganized the City is with their property records. Even more concerning is their fee policy and their painstakingly slow turnaround time. The abhorrent service is a good reminder that the City has a monopoly on these services. Anecdotally, we think it’s only getting worse.
Have a story to tell about a difficult experience dealing with the City? We would love to hear about it.