|Of all the mail and e-mail I
receive from Star readers, by far the greatest amount deals with
workmanship issues and uncompleted items in new homes and condominiums
by a small number of local builders.
Most of these letters relate in some detail the
frustrating experiences of buyers as they try to get the defects in
their new purchases remedied.
Many of the problems are small and inexpensive to fix,
but the homeowners who write to me have been unable to get a
satisfactory response or in many cases, any response from the
builder's after-sales service staff. Unfortunately, too many of the
defects readers write to me about are major and even structural, yet the
items are not attended to week after week, and month after month.
Even worse, perhaps, are the defects noticed by the
purchasers before closing. Despite their complaints, buyers frequently
report that they can get the brush-off from construction personnel
even in situations where a careful explanation is all that would be
Typical of the complaints I receive is a recent e-mail
from one reader, who wrote that she has never been so frustrated with
anyone as she has with the builder of her new home.
"I really can't get around the fact that homeowners
pay out over $250,000 and get this sort of non-client customer service
are all builders like this? I was just wondering if you know of any
articles have been written about the lack of customer service with
builders or the many frustrations people have had with them ... They
seem to always have an excuse because they know we are uninformed about
the processes and we have to take their response at face value."
After receiving this letter, and dozens more like it,
I began to wonder: How would I react if I was buying a new home and the
builder's staff were not responding? How would I advise readers or
Aaron's first rule of dealing with problem builders
is: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. The second rule is: Never take
"no" or "later" for an answer.
If weekly phone calls, letters or faxes are not
producing results, increase the frequency to every three days, then
daily, even hourly. Ask the receptionist for the names of everyone at
the builder's office, and contact all of them.
Find out the name of the company president or owner
it will be on file with the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan and the
Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association. Call, write or e-mail the
president. If he doesn't return your calls, look up or ask for his home
If the construction problem occurs before closing,
prepare to spend several hours on the pre-closing inspection. Bring a
home inspector, write down every single problem, and photograph every
If the issue is after-sales service or repairs, file a
claim with the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan immediately and call them
regularly for progress reports. Consider a small claims court action.
Contact my fellow Star columnist Sheldon Libfeld,
president of the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association. Explain the
problem and find out what the association will do in your case to ensure
that its members adhere to its high standards of construction.
Call the municipal building inspector in charge of the
condominium or subdivision, and demand immediate action on the defects.
If that doesn't work, enlist the help of your local city councillor.
The bottom line is this: There is no excuse for
builders to tolerate shoddy workmanship or poor public relations. If
they're too busy or understaffed to help you, they shouldn't be in the
By the same token, most builders create superior
products and have excellent relationships with their customers. If you
are happy with your home or condominium or the builder's after-sales
service, tell everyone you know. Good builders are proud of their homes
and satisfied customers are their best advertisement.
My July 6 column contained an error in suggesting ways to
prevent household mould. The suggestion should have read to consider the
use of an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.