Tarion and local building officials in 15 Ontario municipalities have been co-operating in a pilot project to overcome illegal home building activities in the province since 2015.
Under the system, described in an Insidehalton.com article, building department officials refer homebuilding building permit requests from individual applicants to Tarion to ensure they are aware of, and comply, with the warranty program’s requirements.
The challenge: It is quite legal for an individual to build his or her home outside of the warranty program — but it is equally illegal for someone to build a home for resale or as a sham transaction falsely registered in the home purchaser’s name hame.
Tarion indicates there are significant illegal building challenges in Oakville.
“Significant enough to warrant 83 investigations of 103 homes in the past five years, resulting in 13 convictions and close to $28,800 in fines levied, according to Tarion,” the publication reported.
Under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, anyone in Ontario who plans to build and/or sell a new home must be registered with Tarion, with a fee that can be upwards of $1,500.
Before registering, all prospective homebuilders are required to successfully complete a technical evaluation, based on the Ontario Building Code, and take a financial viability and business competency analysis.
Tarion vice-president Siloni Waraich and Joe Vaccaro, CEO of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA), met with John Tutert, Oakville’s chief building official and director of building services, at Oakville’s town hall to discuss the pilot in early March.
Waraich said Oakville and 14 other Ontario municipalities are part of the initiative, which was established to inform those who wish to register permits in their own name, rather than use a licensed builder
“It isn’t just illegal to build a home in Ontario without a licensed builder, it is illegal to sell a home. A lot of the education we collectively provide as an industry is to realtors, so they understand. We have convicted realtors in the past, as well, around the province,” he said. “To be clear, we’re not saying that no one should be allowed to build their own homes in Ontario. It’s part of the Canadian spirit.”
Tarion’s enforcement team, comprised of “seasoned investigators,” inspects specific sites based on tips it receives from building departments, homeowners, builders and the general public, Waraich said.
People can anonymously report illegal building to Tarion by calling 1-800-786-6497 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our enforcement team looks at things that have already happened. Generally, construction has already started or a home has already been sold and we want to look at ways of preventing this from happening on the front end,” said Waraich.
To date, Tarion has received 43 letters of confirmation from Oakville homebuilders.
The published report continued:
Tutert said managing the applications has been a “very smooth process” for the Town, so far.
“We provide them with literature that Tarion gives us. We advise them it is in their best interest to discuss it further with Tarion, to truly understand what they’re getting into,” said Tutert.
“Our job is to make sure new houses built in Oakville are safe, livable and built to the Ontario Building Code. This process just aids that.”
Because the requirements to obtain a letter from Tarion aren’t part of the Ontario Building Code, Tutert is unable to issue a building permit unless “all applicable laws” are met, he said.
“We think this is an excellent pilot, that’s why we’re part of it. However, it’s not law, yet. That is what Tarion is attempting to do with conversations with the Province – to get this introduced into the building code,” Tutert said.
There is no warranty coverage for those building a house for themselves, which many aren’t aware of, he said.
“They’re not a Tarion builder, so there is no warranty coverage. Having that early dialogue with that homeowner, sending them to Tarion, prevents bad things from happening in the future,” said Tutert.
Waraich said the program has been “very successful” so far, as Tarion has received positive feedback from participating municipalities, but is “waiting it out” to see when the provincial government will make it mandatory.
Vaccaro wants it to become legislated to ensure “Tarion clearance” is required for people to build their homes, he said.