Monthly Archives: February 2015

A smart journalist diagnoses the problems with Tarion

Its often said a good reporter is a good diagnostician.

In his recent column in The Toronto Sun (22/02/15), lawyer and columnist Alan Shanoff wrote about what’s ailing Tarion, the arms-length new home warranty provider and building industry regulator, a monopoly of the Ontario government.

(See link below: Time to shine light on Tarion“)

As any doctor knows, asking the right questions is essential to making a good diagnosis. Often a good reporter does the same thing. Understanding the cause of an ailment is the key to a cure, and treating symptoms won’t address the underlying cause.

As Mr. Shanoff points out in his column, the problems with Tarion are widely known, varied, and long-standing.

Most observers, including MPPs and the Ombudsman of Ontario, agree the main problem with Tarion is lack of transparency and accountability, a common ailment of government monopolies with scant oversight, as the recent scandals at ORNGE and e-Health showed in such a dramatic way.

Bill 60, the “Tarion Accountability and Oversight Act“, introduced by MPP Singh in December 2014,  is the cure for Tarion we now have before the Ontario Legislature. Will Premier Wynne and her Liberal government support it?

Wynne, like her predecessor McGuinty, has refused to support Bills to bring accountability and transparency to Tarion.  She continues to try to convince us of her belief in accountable and transparent government. “No more spending scandals“, that’s “water under the bridge“, “we’ll do government differently“, she says. Sounds good, but to have any credibility, words need to be matched with action.

During the last month, Liberal MPPs and Cabinet Ministers have been stonewalling consumers, refusing to meet with them to hear why Bill 60 is important to them. “No time!…traveling abroad“…absolutely no time!”

This is a poor show from our public servants.  No wonder people become cynical about politics and politicians.

Consumers will be watching the televised debates in the Legislature on Bill 60 to see how well our elected MPPs understand Tarion  from the consumer standpoint.

Its clear the powerful construction and development lobbies are not in favour of Bill 60.  They seem to have the ear of the Premier. No doubt she’s delighted with the hundreds of thousands of dollars their industry donated to her re-election campaign.

Consumers are tired of fawning government promises to “work with Tarion“.  We don’t need authorities to “work with Tarion”, …that’s the problem! We need independent oversight of Tarion, someone to scrutinize their operations, not another Tarion team player.

This is a political problem. It remains squarely on the plate of the government who’s watched it grow and fester for the last 11 years.

Action is long overdue. Premier Wynne and her Liberal MPPs need to heed the diagnosis, and cure the patient. Now.

See article here: http://www.torontosun.com/2015/02/21/time-to-shine-light-on-tarion

 

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We won’t say we told you so, but we told you so. Condo Consultation Report/ Tarion comments

In January, 2014, the City of Toronto published a “Condominium Consultation Report”, after a year of public consultations with stakeholders on improving various aspects of the city’s condo living.

36 recomendations were made. Item 26 concerns Tarion Warranty Corporation under the heading “Construction Quality”.

Consumers have been telling Tarion for years the warranty provides inadequate protection for new home buyers. Not just condo buyers, but purchasers of newly built freehold homes as well.  Tarion, whose slogan is “protecting new home buyers,” often ends up protecting builders.

Builders have their own powerful, politically well-connected groups to protect their interests. Consumers are supposed to have Tarion.

The consumer stakeholders who were consulted for this Condo Consultation report gave clear signals the current system is not working. Below are some of their comments:

Re: Qu. 27 – Building Quality:

# 78: “There are no laws to protect condo owners and please don’t tell me there is Tarion. That was the most useless organization…

#8 – “..Tarion offered no help, in fact it was helping the developer by refusing to pull his license for such shabby quality and his refusal to fix it…”

#107 – “Tarion is in the hands of the developers/builders, as of now is useless”.

#120 –  “The TARION  process is also a joke as it provides home buyers a false sense of protection.”

#22 -“Tarion warranty is not trustworthy. Need a public and independently-run governing body for building code and minimum acceptable quality.”

#45 – “Tarion needs to hold developers to account without condo corporation incurring incredibly huge legal fees with still no resolution.”

#48 – “Developers should not be self-governed/regulated when it comes to inspections and follow-ups, Tarion is a perfect example of how developers in this province have carte blanche and consumers have no rights. Tarion is a joke! “

#70 – Reshape Tarion’s Board of Directors, more Directors from the public should be on the board. City inspection is a rubber-stamping in respect of inspection.”

#77 – “Should be more rigorous enforcement than Tarion – developers need to be held more accountable.”

# 95 – “Tarion warranty system is useless – Had to settle with builder for next to nothing.”

#8 – (pg. 24) “Tarion is biased and is in the pocket of the developers.”

#28 – “There is a significant conflict of interest with a privately-run new home warranty program by Tarion. They operate with builders and allowing them to do minimum rather than striving for the best… Warranty guidelines should be drafted and enforced by a government body, not a private company.”

……………… (end of comments)

The report states that construction defects were frequently raised in the discussions.  Recommendation #26 of the report states:

Encourage Tarion to publish and communicate common construction defects being claimed under warranty.” 

The report goes on to describe the Tarion warranty claims process as “onerous, takes a long time, and is sometimes not well managed (…) leaving condo residents without adequate protection. The process is also adversarial, sometimes creating hostility between condo corporations and builders (…) Participants desired additional disclosure of building defects (…) Rather than develop an approach that relies on the end-user to do the research…. 

Consumer groups have been voicing these concerns for years.  Even Tarion’s own employees voiced these concerns in a letter to the Premier (31/03/2014).  Various Ministers of Consumer Services as well as Premiers Wynne and McGuinty have all been made fully aware of these problems over the past years. All have turned a blind eye to repeated calls for transparency and accountability of this monopoly. The new Minister of Consumer Services has told consumers he won’t support Bill 60, the  “Tarion Accountability and Oversight Bill“. Yet he says he’s all for accountability and transparency. So is Premier Wynne, at least so she keeps telling us. But somehow these principles don’t ever seem to apply to Tarion.

Instead of telling us what they won’t do, we’d like to hear what they will do to solve these problems which have grown and festered under the Liberal government.

The City of Toronto Condominium Consultation Report is a small step in the right direction, and many of its recommendations should include buyers of new freehold homes as well.

There must be a better way to resolve new home construction defects in a a timely and cost-efficient way. Not every problem requires a courtroom. The current system creates an absurd situation where the insurer ends up fighting his own client. Homeowners lose, the taxpayer loses, our communities lose.

Consumer complaints about Tarion are serious, varied, and long-standing.  This Condominium Consultation  shows that. Its time to stop blaming the victim.

According to Tarion, its only critics are a fringe group of whiners who at the end of the day, wouldn’t be happy with Buckingham Palace.  This report certainly dispels that fiction.

Most consumers just want their new home to be free of construction defects, and to see the person responsible for defects made accountable for them.

Click here to view the City of Toronto Condominium Consultation Report.

http://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/City%20Planning/SIPA/Files/pdf/C/Condo%20Consultation%20-%20Recommendations%20Report%20Attachment%20D.pdf

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Why “re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic?”…Open letter to Ms. Lamoureux, Exec. Chair of “SLASTO”

Dear Ms. L. Lamoureux,

Executive Chair, Safety, Licensing Appeals, and Standards Tribunals Ontario (SLASTO)

Many consumers wonder why you continue to believe the License Appeal Tribunal (LAT) is a proper forum for homeowners to appeal Tarion warranty decisions.

You know the probability of failure for consumers at the LAT is 83-96%. (CPBH research 2007-2013).

You know consumers cannot afford lawyers for even a 2-day hearing, at approx. $2,000 – 3,600 per day, plus time off work.

You  know the LAT is a highly legalistic forum, and procedure-driven. Only skilled litigation lawyers know their way around this courtroom.

You know the burden of proof is high on self-represented parties to prove a defect in a home they did not build, and to contest a “decision letter” written by the large corporate defendant, Tarion.

You know the LAT is a two-on-one for consumers, where they’re pitted against two lawyers, Tarion’s and the builder’s, both using procedure and tricky cross-examination tactics to get claims dismissed.

You know Tarion hires top litigation experts, in addition to their in-house lawyers, to fight consumers at the LAT.

You know the Assistant Deputy Minister of Consumer Services recently stated the LAT processes are: “not transparent, complicated, time-consuming, costly, and unbalanced. (Letter to Tarion CEO, 07/10/14)

You know consumers cannot afford technical experts they need to prove their cases, and that many experts will not testify against future job-providers such as Tarion and builders.

You know the LAT website is UN-consumer-friendly, by your own admission, (09/12/14).

You have acknowledged LAT Chairs have little or no training in dealing with self-represented parties.

You are aware Tarion’s annual revenues are approx. $33 million, it pays salaries/benefits of $24 million, administrative costs of $9 million, yet paid out only $3.5 million in claims. (2013 Annual Report). You know Tarion is a monopoly with a “consumer protection” mandate, and has the responsibility to regulate and license builders. Tarion  has the resources to  provide mediation or other problem-solving options to consumers without recourse to a courtroom. Yet the LAT continues to be the appeal mechanism for Tarion’s decisions, with Tarion/builders winning 83-96% of the cases, at the taxpayer’s expense. Many consumers feel new home defects should be kept firmly on the plate of the person who “owns the problem” and has the resources to solve them -Tarion.

Why is a courtroom being used at all in these cases? Why is the alarmingly high rate of failure for consumers not raising red flags at SLASTO? – or the LAT?

You’ve said (22/01/15) that you intend to “improve the service experience” at the LAT, manage “expectations” of homeowners, “improve processes“, provide “enhanced training and education” for  adjudicators.

With respect, Ms.Lamoureux, in the light of all the above information you have, this seems like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

 

 

 

 

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