|Mark is an unhappy purchaser of a new $500,000
Thornhill home. His story dramatically shows some of the weaknesses in
the system when it comes to customer service and the powerlessness some
buyers experience at the hands of a few irresponsible builders.
When Mark wrote me last fall, his closing was still a month away. He
wanted to share the "extreme amount of heartache and trouble" he was
experiencing with his builder, and the "shabby way" he was being
His problems started when the builder first began construction. He
and his wife had paid $1,800 to have the master shower enlarged and an
additional $5,000 to have the house extended by one foot to incorporate
a larger master bathroom.
When the framing started going up, none of the structural changes had
been incorporated. Mark's wife talked to the foreman on the project who
told her that their plans "blew away" on a windy day and they were only
getting the standard plan for that model.
As well, Mark wrote, "they used the wrong brick on our house. They
contend they did use the right brick, but when I asked to see the sample
brick that I picked from, I was told it was unfortunately `thrown away'
(the only sample that is missing). The fascia and soffits are the wrong
colour as well."
Mark contacted the sales representatives and builders many times, but
never received a return phone call or note. "I asked to speak once to
the construction manager," he added, "but was told by their receptionist
that he is too important a person to speak with anyone."
In our exchange of correspondence, Mark told me his experience in the
sales office should have been a tip-off to the construction problems. He
brought one of my earlier columns about builder offers with him to the
sales office and asked to change some of the clauses.
"During the negotiation phase," he wrote, "I was not permitted to
have an attorney advise me or even look at the offer. I was given a
number of days after the offer to have a solicitor review it and I gave
the lawyer a list of those horrible clauses you referred to in your
Later he consulted his lawyer. "I remember sitting in her office," he
told me, "and she called the builder's lawyer on speakerphone and told
him what I wanted changed. He said that if there were any changes to the
wording it would be best to tear up the contract now." Mark later tried
to contact the builder's lawyer about the construction problems but was
told "that's the way things work."
"It's just not fair," he complained to me, "and it won't change
because everyone accepts the treatment. They don't see $500,000 as being
as much money as it is to me and they consider the home like a $20
purchase and treat it as such."
Mark e-mailed me again last month after reading my July 20 column
(see "Squeaky wheels get sales results" online at
http://www.thestar.com). I had
written about the frustrating experiences of buyers of some new homes
and condominiums in trying to get defects and uncompleted items
"The builder of my home has not corrected any of their deficiencies
since January," Mark wrote. As well, there were several items that were
paid for and not done, or done incorrectly after notification.
The staff at the Ontario New Home Warranty Program (ONHWP) and even
the builder's own sales staff recommended a lawsuit to get some action.
In my "squeaky wheels" column, I had suggested the same thing.
Mark filed an 11-page statement of claim against the builder and the
sales staff, accusing them of breach of contract, negligence,
misrepresentation, bad faith and shoddy work.
The builder's lawyers promptly responded that under the new home
warranty legislation, purchasers are prohibited from suing builders in
connection with a new home agreement, but instead must submit
differences to arbitration. The lawyers demanded that Mark withdraw the
The builder, says Mark bitterly, is immune from any actions against
In a recent New in Homes cover story, Greater Toronto Home Builders'
Association president Sheldon Libfeld said that it is not unreasonable
for a homebuyer to wait a year to have all the deficiencies in a home
Am I the only one who thinks that concept is shocking? Whatever
happened to customer service?
My own suggestion is that if the problems can't be fixed within 30
days, ONHWP should step in and finish the house. Either that or the
builder should have to find some other line of business.
Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can
be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or fax 416-364-3818. Visit