Why do I continue to fight for consumer reforms to Tarion Warranty Corporation? I don’t like to stand by and watch innocent people suffer. It’s that simple. The words of Harper Lee in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” remain in my mind: “You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.
In the hope that someone in the Ontario government might read this, and might have some empathy, here are a few stories from consumers who’ve been fighting to get their newly-built homes fixed. We are promised under Ontario law homes will be built “free of defects in workmanship and materials”; we are promised Tarion will regulate the industry, and publish a record of shoddy building practices.
Here are a few snapshots of the misery consumers have been living through, trying to get their new homes fixed: (edited for length, style; names withheld for privacy)
“I have been struggling for 20 months with our builder to fix many items on our deficiency list, then struggling with Tarion to get the warranty enforced we’re forced to buy under Ontario law. What they cannot repair is the emotional struggle and the time away from the most important thing to me in this world, to be a good Mom and raise my young family. I wanted our time in our new home to be filled with happy memories. It saddens me my young boys have to see me struggle with these home defects. Fighting big corporations and their lawyers is emotionally and mentally debilitating. It’s corporate abuse of power, and the victims are families like mine you rarely hear about.” …. New home buyer, Barrie area
“I lived through our home deficiencies while my world fell apart. My Mom had leukemia, she lived next door with the same furnace which was defective. My husband’s father passed away, as did our elderly grandparents. Meanwhile Tarion continued to fight us with their hard lawyer-ing. It caused us so much stress that our dreams of starting a family in our new home were eaten up by this ordeal. No one can give me those years back.” …New home buyer, Oakville
“My husband and I have spent over 2 years now trying to get our new home fixed through Tarion. They’ve fought us at the License Appeal Tribunal for over 18 months, using their in-house counsel, top outside litigators, as well as joining forces with the builder’s lawyer. We are self-represented. Legal assistance for this specialized area of the law would have cost us over $2,000 per day. Tarion uses the warranty fund to fight consumers, and uses expert witnesses to say black is blue, and attack our credibility, which was shocking to us. I was hoping to spend time with our new-born baby, my demanding career, my husband and our family, but our days and sleepless nights have been taken up with fighting a huge litigious corporation in a courtroom. Still coming back each day to a new home with serious construction defects.” …Young couple, Mississauga
“For 5 years, this new home disaster consumed our lives. From roof to foundation our new home was riddled with construction defects which we discovered bit by bit as we lived in the house. It was particularly miserable to live there with inadequate heating in the winter. We begged everyone to help us – from the builder, to Tarion, to the municipality, to the Premier of Ontario, to the Prime Minister of Canada. No one helped us. It was shocking to us as Canadians that we could find ourselves in this situation. I lost business revenue of $300,000+, and we paid over $400,000 to get ourselves out of this mess. During this stressful period I fell ill to cancer. We lost five years of our lives because of that hell house.” …New home buyer, Ontario
This is sadly only the tip of the iceberg of disturbing stories which continue to plague innocent and hard-working new home buyers. Many suffered health issues and marital break-ups due to the constant stress of living in a defective home and the hopelessness and fear which comes with fighting large corporations with lots of money, time, and aggressive lawyers. The adversarial approach is clearly not working for the consumer, the most vulnerable party, the ones the warranty was created to protect in the first place. This problem screams lack of government oversight and accountability. The Ontario government gave a monopoly to Tarion and the right to levy an indirect tax on each new home buyer, promising them “new home buyer protection” and “regulation of the building industry”.
This is a political problem. The government created it, the government must fix it. Does this government have the political will to stand up to its most affluent donors – the building and construction industry, the largest donors to Provincial re-election campaigns? If it continues to do nothing more than a bit of window-dressing and shoot the messenger, there will be no deterrent to shoddy building: marginal builders will continue to walk away scot free, and ordinary consumers will continue to pay, both emotionally and financially, for someone else’s wrong-doing.
Doesn’t anyone in the Liberal government see the absurdity and injustice of what’s going on here for years? Isn’t there anyone out there with empathy, who’s not “working with Tarion“?
Madam Premier, and Liberal members of the Provincial Legislature: consumers who’ve suffered this misery can perhaps suggest a builder for your next new home. Until you walk a mile in these shoes…