Category Archives: Tarion Warranty Corporation

Listen to the Other Side

Conde Nast Collection, Cartoon by Stan Hunt.

Conde Nast Collection, Cartoon by Stan Hunt.


After buying a new home or condo in Ontario, a growing number of consumers say they’ll never to do it again.

Why not?

Many have discovered construction defects in their new homes, and the government-mandated Tarion warranty they bought – in a fee passed on to them by the builder – didn’t compensate them for the defects. The warranty is supposed to “guarantee” new homes against construction defects, and “back-stop” the builder’s obligations to deliver the home “free of defects in workmanship and materials”.  Yet many consumers have found themselves on their own, paying for defects they unfortunately discovered after the Tarion 2-year warranty expired, or which didn’t fit the legal definition of a “major structural defect”.  Further, many who appealed Tarion’s warranty decisions to the “License Appeal Tribunal” (LAT) found themselves up against not one, but two lawyers – Tarion’s and the builder’s – and lost their appeals.

It doesn’t take much to see this is not a level playing field for consumers. It’s not often about who is right, or who is telling the truth: its about legal tactics, with which consumers have no experience. Unrepresented consumers are very vulnerable in the courtroom, and their failure rate is  dismally high, close to 90%. (CPBH analysis of the LAT, 2013)

What continues to frustrate consumers is that their point of view rarely seems to be taken seriously in the policy making process, either at Tarion or the Ministry of Consumer Services. Lip service is given, heads nod, e-mails are filed (or deleted), and little improvement follows. Tarion goes through the motions of Annual Public Meeting question periods, jargon-heavy “consultations” on their website, but little improvement comes out of recommendations made by consumers, consumer advocates and consumer organizations.  MPPs have called out for reform in the Ontario Legislature, underlining that Tarion has not been subject to meaningful reform for its entire existence, 37 years.

The lack of actual consumer participation in policy decisions is not surprising. There are no consumers on Tarion’s board, and no consumer watchdogs are permitted to oversee its activities. An internal committee called the “Consumer Advisory Council”, operates seemingly behind closed doors, and refuses direct contact with consumers. Meanwhile, the affluent and well-staffed building lobbies – BILD and OHBA –  make sure their industry’s interests are well understood and well communicated to boardroom decision-makers. Eight of Tarion’s thirteen board seats are occupied by OHBA builders, and several key building  executives write regular paid columns in many of Ontario’s influential newspapers.

So WHO is representing the consumer point of view at the decision-making table? Builders. Yes, builders, and a handful of lawyers and corporate executives. According to Tarion’s long-time former board Chair, builders are the best ones to represent consumer interests, as he stated for the public record at Tarion’s Public Meeting on April 25, 2013)

Perhaps builders who are supposed to be representing consumer interests will recall a statement made by one of their executive board members of the OHBA, Oct. 20th, 2004 in a “Strategic Review Committee Paper” (pg. 16, para. 5):  “…many members had expressed concerns (…) and that it was important that the bar not be lowered to the point that consumers do not place value on the benefits of warranty coverage.”

Consumer trust and confidence in the new home building industry and the mandatory warranty coverage is key.  Builders, building industry lobbies, Tarion as industry regulator, and the Ministry as “oversight” authority, all have an interest in listening to and  properly understanding the consumer’s interests. They need to take consumer input seriously and involve actual consumers in the policy-making process.

A builder’s version of what consumers think is not the consumer’s point of view.  We’re not all glossy magazine-crazed, “dreamers” obsessed with up-grades, complaining about paint smudges on mirrors.

Consumers deserve to get what they paid for: a new home “free of defects in workmanship and materials”, promised under Ontario law, and the warranty coverage they are obliged to pay for by law. Regulators of the industry shouldn’t end up subsidizing shoddy builders, and making the consumer pay for their wrong-doing. Or making it easier for these builders to escape accountability,  and providing incomplete builder track records to the public. Who would seriously believe that the body charged with regulating the building industry should be dominated by those it is supposed to be regulating? This is a classic case of the butcher inspecting his own meat.

“Listen to the other side”, or “audi alteram partem” is one of the fundamental principles of fairness and justice. If consumers are not properly represented at policy-making tables, the policies made by a builder-dominated board will never protect anyone’s interests but their own, packaged in consumer protection spin.


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Filed under Consumers' Reform, Tarion Warranty Corporation

Sound familiar?

New Yorker Cartoon, Conde Nast, by C.Weyant

New Yorker Cartoon, Conde Nast, by C.Weyant

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Filed under Consumers' Reform, Tarion Warranty Corporation

Is Tarion’s in-house “ombudsman” impartial?

Many consumers have voiced dissatisfaction to Tarion about its internal “Office of the Ombudsman”. Many have told  Tarion senior management the term “ombudsman” shouldn’t be used by an employee whose responsibility it is to investigate his own employer.  In order to be credible, this office requires complete independence and impartiality.

Often Tarion’s “ombudsman” has to seek approval from Tarion’s own senior management before investigating matters brought to his office by concerned consumers. By the “ombudsman’s” own admission at the April 30th, 2014 Annual Public Meeting, his office is “dependent” on Tarion’s board, and 8 out of 13 are builders.

What’s going on here?

As Mr. Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario, stated in a paper to the “Standing Committee on General Government” in 2006: Under no circumstances should ombudsmen be employees of the organizations they oversee“.  He adds that many organizations use the term ombudsman to “create public relations departments cloaked in the mantle of ombudsmen.”

Why should Tarion be an exception to this rule?

Many consumers have relied on Tarion’s ombudsman as an “independent investigator of complaints” about Tarion, which is the definition of an ombudsman. But they have sadly found he will not investigate, or says the matter is beyond his mandate.

We get it. Then the name of this department should be changed.  The title “ombudsman” gives consumers the reasonable expectation of  independence and impartiality in any investigation. But under its current reporting and pay structure, this office seems unable to provide a credible investigation of its own employer’s business practices.

A Compliance Officer, reporting to the Ministry of Consumer Services, to make sure all rules and procedures are followed at Tarion, and all parties treated fairly under the rules, would seem to make more sense. This suggestion has been brought to Tarion’s senior management in writing several times,  twice by consumers at Tarion’s Annual Public Meetings. But it has been repeatedly ignored or brushed aside in favour of the current in-house “ombudsman’s office”, which seems a fool’s errand.

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Consumers and their MPP’s (NDP) try to get answers from Tarion executives!

TARION’s Annual Public Meeting to be held today April 30, 2014 has been overwhelmed with consumer response to attend and ask questions. Tarion will allot only 1 hour for questions/answers. With over 250 consumers attending in person, and over 160+ via Webcast, Tarion finally agreed at the last minute to extend the meeting room to accommodate consumers traveling from all over Ontario.

Here are some of the questions MPP Rosario Marchese (whose Bill 139 calls for greater transparency and oversight of Tarion) Tweeted to his followers today, which he says should be asked of Tarion at its Annual Public Meeting:

–  Why the increase in “illegal building” (new homes built without warranty), if Tarion says its clamping down on it?

–  Why has Tarion not hired inspectors to inspect their registered builders work, while the law (the ONHWPA) requires it?

–  How can Tarion serve the consumers who pay is bills while being controlled by the developers it is supposed to regulate?

– The Province makes consumers pay fees to Tarion, which has a monopoly on home warranties. How do we know they are getting value for money?

Why has Tarion failed to address transparency problems reveled in this Toronto Star investigation (July 6, 2013)?

–  Average pay at Tarion over 100,000 per year; How much goes to CEO, COO, and 9 Vice-Presidents?  (Tarion is not subject to the Sunshine List, and is not obliged to disclose executive pay.)

“Is Tarion another ORNGE?” If not, will Tarion open its books and prove it?

These questions deserve answers. Consumers will do their best to get them at the Annual Public Meeting.


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MPP Barrett speaking to the Legislature on April 17, 2014, re BILL 190

MPP Barrett (PC) makes a compelling case for expanding the Auditor General of Ontario’s powers to look into TARION WARRANTY CORPORATION.  In its entire 37 year history, Tarion has never been subject to an independent Audit by the Auditor General of Ontario. Perhaps a few cobwebs there?
Since the Liberal government continues to promise all Ontarians “accountability and transparency” in government, to exclude Tarion from this scrutiny is baffling.

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

by Thomas Paine, British/American writer, 1737-1809

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April 21, 2014 · 8:15 pm

Re: “Wynne Overhauls Transparency Rules”

By: Barbara Captijn
In response to an article in The Toronto Star, March 7, 2014

Consumer's Reform Tarion

The Premier’s calls for transparency are welcome. But she has yet to respond to consumer petitions, MPP’s Bills and Motions in the Legislature urging accountability and transparency at Tarion Warranty Corporation. “But Tarion doesn’t get taxpayer money” protest Tarion’s executives and Ministry policy wonks. But warranty fees are passed on to new home buyers, (unless you believe in the tooth fairy), by builders in the purchaser price. Further, Tarion has a monopoly in home warranties and builder licensing, administers consumer protection laws, and can lawyer itself up to fight homeowners who don’t have money for legal advice. The Ombudsman of Ontario and Auditor General have no authority over Tarion, and executive pay is not subject to the Sunshine List.  But we’re being asked to believe Tarion and their builder-heavy board know what’s best for us. Because they say so.

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Filed under Letters to the Editor, Tarion Warranty Corporation

A Victory for Openness

Re: “A Victory for Openness” | article in  The Toronto Star, Dec. 23, 2013
Comment below submitted by Barbara Captijn as letter to the editor


Good news for openness and transparency from Attorney General Gerretsen regarding greater accessibility of court records. Finally a senior official following through on Premier Wynne’s much-repeated promise of a new era of openness and transparency in government. But this should not be limited to criminal records: it should apply to civil court proceedings as well. Perhaps it’s time for the Minister of Consumer Services, Minister MacCharles, to follow through on her promise to Ontarians (July 8, 2013 in The Star) of greater transparency in builder records for the home-buying public. Regardless of who “won” these cases, all Ontario License Appeal Tribunal proceedings should be listed on Tarion Warranty Corporation’s on-line “Licensed Builder Directory”. For Tarion to continue to keep this information absent from builder’s records is not telling the full story, and seems at odds with Attorney General Gerretson’s statement: “The public has a right to know what’s going on in our court system.The Star has it right: “The public’s right to know is entrenched in our legal system.”  Time to show the full picture on incomplete or shoddy new home building.

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Everyday solutions for legal problems

Re: “Put Justice within Reach”, Editorial Oct. 12 | The Toronto Star
Letter to the Editor by Barbara Captijn
Published in The Toronto Star Oct. 17, 2013, and on

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” wrote Shakespeare in Henry V1, written in 1591 — a cry out against the perceived trickery in the legal system that seems to work against the average person. Hard to believe that in 2013 we are still trying to make the justice system serve the needs of everyday people in everyday life.

Help may be on the way. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, has thankfully initiated a study that could bring about much-needed reform. The report, “A Roadmap for Change,” advocates more problem-solving, and putting the needs of the public first.

The choice to self-represent is usually out of financial necessity: a settlement of $15,000 is little use to anyone if it’s wiped out by legal costs of $10,000. But to self-represent is a “lose-lose” proposition for everyone — individuals, our communities and the taxpayer. It over-burdens our already sclerotic system, and causes extreme stress and financial hardship to individuals and families.

Continue reading

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Fox guarding warranty coop in Ontario

By: Barbara Captijn
Re: “Warranty system slanted” (Aug. 7, 2012, Belleville Intelligencer newspaper) |
Thursday’s Letter to the Editor
Published on | Belleville Intelligencer

Colin McKay’s article is an accurate and complete overview of the serious systemic problems at Tarion Warranty Corporation.

It defies common sense that our government has a hands-off policy in their “oversight” role of Tarion. It defies common sense that Tarion has their builder-dominated board speak for the interests of consumers.

And it flies in the face of any “equitable principles” of law that Tarion can make unlimited use of the warranty fund to fight its own self-represented homeowners/stakeholders in court over claims for new home defects.

We rely on our free press, such as this article by The Intelligencer, to expose another abuse of the public trust. The fox has been given responsibility for guarding the chicken coop.

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