The column told the story of
Mark and Cheryl, who purchased a $500,000 house, only to experience what
they say was a great deal of "heartache and trouble" at their treatment
by their builder and the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan.
After failing to get
satisfaction, they filed a conciliation request with the builder over 36
Of these, 12 were fixed a
year after closing but just before the conciliation. All but two of the
rest were dismissed as not being covered by the warranty, including
bidet pipes sticking out of the bathroom floor for a fixture that was
not ordered, a 3/8-inch slope in the kitchen floor, and the failure of
the builder to enlarge the master bathroom by one foot after the
purchasers had paid $5,000 and received revised plans initialled by the
The smaller bathroom,
according to the ONHWP conciliator, was "equal in quality" to the larger
one for which they had paid another $5,000.
The first e-mail I received
was from Stan Wise, of Prego Homes. Wise stated that several of Mark's
complaints were clearly "legal issues" and "not something an insurance
program should attend to."
Wise says the offer should
have been reviewed by a lawyer before signing, and amended to provide
that the $5,000 premium would be refunded if the measurements as built
did not match the plans.
Unfortunately, most builders
will not agree to this type of offer amendment.
Peter Zygocki, owner of
Finefield Homes in Oshawa, wrote two lengthy and thoughtful e-mails
carefully presenting the builder's viewpoint of ONHWP disputes.
He called my article
"one-sided" and suggested that perhaps Mark and Cheryl were not as "easy
to get along with" as other purchasers might have been.
He explained that ONHWP
conciliation is "not a way in which to force the builder to do exactly
what the homebuyer wants."
He wrote, "More time should
be spent educating the new-home consumer so that their expectations are
"How can a builder satisfy a
purchaser who simply cannot be satisfied and expects perfection?" he
"A new home is just that
new not perfect."
Zygocki, whose company has
enjoyed an excellent rating with ONHWP for the last 11 years, added, "It
is a constant balancing act to get new homes built for new purchasers on
time and as per contract and to service existing homes with the same
limited amount of trades and suppliers. I am not making excuses, just
Other readers took the
opposite viewpoint, complaining about poor consumer protection from
One wrote, "Consumers should
not be at the mercy of builder inefficiency and intentional lack of
attention. Few would put up with a car manufacturer taking months to
make good a repair on a car."
Gary Anandasangaree commented
on the failure by Mark's builder to cap the vacuum pipe from the garage
to the house potentially allowing carbon monoxide into the house from
the garage. (The conciliation chalked this one up against the builder.)
Anandasangaree wrote: "What
the hell was the building inspector doing deeming the property habitable
with such a significant oversight that could be rather harmful?"
"Consumers," wrote another
reader, "should not be at the mercy of builder inefficiency and
intentional lack of attention."
One reader named Mike just
finished his own ONHWP conciliation and wrote that, "It is difficult to
get ONHWP to do anything."
Mike e-mailed about Mark's
story to say "Having paid $5,000 for an upgrade that was not done
without at least a refund is ridiculous."
Andy Greenwood is a recent
purchaser of a new home north of Toronto. "What other industry can get
away with not finishing work they have already been well paid for?" he
asked in his e-mail.
He suggested a change to the
process as a whole, or an ombudsman to "fight against this unfair
Robert Findlay gets the last word in.
"If the story of Mark and Cheryl and the House from Hell wasn't true
it would be quite hilarious," he wrote. "However it is (true), and it is
just shocking. But it is so bizarre that I can not help but see it (as)
a Monty Python skit. Remember the one with John Cleese and the dead
parrot ? Cleese keeps insisting that the parrot is dead when the owner
of the pet store that sold him the parrot keeps telling him that it is
just asleep. Poor Mark keeps pointing out faults and the arbitrator
keeps insisting that everything is OK."
Fortunately, Mark and Cheryl don t have a parrot.