|It would be an understatement to say that Greater
Toronto Home Builders' Association president Sheldon Libfeld didn't like
what I wrote about the Ontario New Home Warranty Program in my Sept. 7
column, Home warranty program behind the times (online at
In his Sept. 14 New in Homes column, Report says ONHWP offers
buyers best protection, Libfeld accused me of trying to discredit
ONHWP in the minds of homebuyers; of resorting to half-truths, apples
and oranges comparisons with other jurisdictions, and comparisons to
programs that do not yet exist.
In his response, Libfeld quoted extensively, but very selectively,
from a 2001 report by PSTG Consulting Group, which congratulated ONHWP
on its service to Ontarians over the last 25 years.
What he failed to mention was the criticism PSTG levelled at the
plan, or a similar critical report by the Building Regulatory and Reform
PSTG said, for example, that all ONHWP directors, even the consumer
representatives, are chosen by the building industry. PSTG expressed
"concern" over the process and recommended "further examining" the
industry's role in choosing ONHWP directors.
PSTG reported that ONHWP service levels in the complaints and
conciliation areas have declined in recent years and "need to be
It also said that homebuilders need "to improve the professionalism
of the industry and to improve the quality of service provided by
The PSTG report noted "approximately one in four consumers who
purchase a home lodge a complaint with ONHWP." It also reported that
consumer complaints to ONHWP increased 45 per cent from 1999 to 2000,
with a staggering total of 28,153 complaints in 2000.
In response to the criticism, ONHWP has now changed the way it counts
complaints, so that the contact numbers in 2001 and 2002 are
According to PSTG, two 1998 surveys rated consumer satisfaction with
ONHWP as "low average." Hardly a stellar performance. Libfeld misquoted
me by saying that I resorted to "apples and oranges" comparisons with
other programs, and with programs which do not yet exist and never may.
What I said in my column was that parts of at least one other
program, Alberta's, were better than Ontario's. That statement is true.
I also clearly stated that the U.S. plan I wrote about was a proposal
and not yet in place, but it had been endorsed by the National
Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in the U.S., representing 60,000
builders and 130,000 associate members.
That report, now before the U.S. government awaiting approval,
recommends a 90-day turnaround for repairing defects in new homes.
Compare this to Ontario where some homebuyers may, in Libfeld's own
words, have to wait a whole year for satisfaction and only if the item
is covered under the warranty.
I publicly challenge Libfeld and the GTHBA to adopt the unanimous
recommendation of 60,000 of his fellow builders in the United States.
Libfeld accused me of "leaving would-be homebuyers with unrealistic
expectations." Imagine if carmakers forced purchasers to wait months to
have defects repaired because of a very hot market or labour shortages.
The government would step in in a flash.
Libfeld accused me of warning readers, in a previous column, that
builder offers contain "ticking time-bombs" and hidden "cost
pass-through clauses." I plead guilty to believing, perhaps naively,
that the purchase price of a home should include all costs unless the
dollar amounts of any additional charges are disclosed in writing in the
contract. I challenge Libfeld to state publicly that the mandate of
ONHWP should be consumer protection a glaring omission from the
enabling legislation and the ONHWP mission statement. Without these
statements of intention, how is the public to know who ONHWP is trying
to protect the builders or the homebuyers?
For this reason, I challenge Libfeld to recommend opening up the
special and general meetings of ONHWP to the public, so we can see how
In fact, maybe it's time for the government to wrest control of ONHWP
away from the building industry and open up the field to private,
competing warranty programs regulated by the government.