Consumer Protection: Purchasing Pre-Construction
When you purchase a preconstruction condominium, you expect your home will look just like the sales brochure promised. Unfortunately, some condominium owners end up moving into buildings that are still under construction and into units that are missing their carefully chosen finishes or lacking features needed to make them comfortable to live in.
Condo owners who find themselves in these situations are understandably frustrated and disappointed – and they want to know who is responsible. Often, they turn to Tarion for answers.
It’s important to understand that when it comes to determining when a condo is ready for occupancy, that responsibility lies with the municipality. Municipal building departments are responsible for enforcing the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and certifying that condo units meet the legal standards for occupancy. Although municipalities enforce these standards, they are set by the provincial government.
Municipal building officials also conduct inspections at various points during construction, primarily focusing on major components of the unit – for example the plumbing or the heating/air conditioning systems – and the safety features.
The OBC sets the minimum standards for occupancy and if a unit meets those standards, the municipality must grant occupancy. The OBC requires that a home be substantially complete and ready to use for its intended purpose. It also lays out the minimum systems and safety related features that must be completed before occupancy can take place.
As we’ve heard from some of the condo owners who have contacted us, a unit that is deemed ready for occupancy isn’t necessarily completely finished.
In some cases, finishing in your unit may occur after you move in. We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and are exploring opportunities to work with the industry through the Ontario Building Partnership to increase public education around the current occupancy standards.
Recently, Tarion, together with the Ontario Building Officials Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association, were joined by 350 viewers during a webinar to discuss ways we are all working together to build consumer confidence in the new home buying experience. Unfinished homes was one of the issues we explored.
If you have questions about the state of your unit, you should first contact your builder. You can also contact your municipal building department if you believe there may be OBC violations. And as always, you should be sure to make a record of any incomplete work during your Pre-Delivery Inspection and be sure to report any unresolved issues to Tarion on your 30-day and year-end warranty forms.
So, while no one wants to find themselves in an unfinished condo, there is help available. To learn more about the warranty coverage on condos and how Tarion can help, visit Tarion.com
HOWARD BOGACH is president and CEO of Tarion Warranty Corp., a private corporation established to protect the rights of new homebuyers and to regulate new home builders.