This story is told in two parts.

Part 1:  House-building delays put family in a bind

Tony Cote, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

This is Linda and Jeremy Smith's story. It was first told to me in June and settled shortly afterward. It's about the frustrations the couple went through after purchasing a new home.

Back in February 2005, the couple purchased a new home from Tartan. It is in the Rivers Bend community on River Road, south of the city, and the closing date was set for mid-December, just before the Christmas season started in earnest.

Something went wrong. Tartan couldn't meet the agreed-upon delivery date, changing it to Jan. 25. Then it was changed to May 25, then June 28 and finally July 11.

"They told us they were having problems getting permits," Mr. Smith said.

"With Tartan having such a good reputation on the quality of their work, we did not hesitate to buy a Tartan home," Ms. Smith said. "We have several friends and acquaintances who have purchased new homes and they were more than happy with the time frame in which Tartan completed their homes. We sold our house and moved into a rental in August 2005."

Not long after the "temporary" move, things went sour. The first of the many delays occurred.

"The first time was not unreasonable. We were disappointed, but delays happen," Ms. Smith said.

That disappointment changed to anger when, just a few weeks before the new closing date, the couple learned that their home wouldn't be ready until May 25, four months after the already revised date.

Because of the inconvenience, Tartan gave them a $1,500 credit to be applied to the purchase price of the home.

"On March 27, we received another letter saying that the closing date was changed to June 28, with no offer of compensation," the clearly frustrated Ms. Smith wrote. "I called and asked if we were going to be compensated for yet another delay and I was told that due to several homes being delayed, Tartan would not be compensating anyone, but that we were more than welcome to file a claim with Tarion, the new home warranty plan.

"Lastly, on May 24, we received another letter stating that our closing date was revised once again to July 11, 2006. "At this point, we were extremely angry, frustrated and discouraged."

She explained that the delays were doubly frustrating, as Tartan had assured them in April that everything was on schedule and that they could give the required notice to their landlord that they were vacating.

The notice was given. Shortly afterward, Tartan let the family know that it couldn't meet the closing date and things would be delayed several weeks.
They were going to be homeless for 11 days -- mom and dad and three kids, including a five-month-old.

"Here we were with a newborn having to stay in a friend's basement," Mr. Smith said.

"I was extremely upset. The saleswoman tried very hard to console me, but I was way too upset," Ms. Smith said. Compensation was promised.

"The battle then began."

The offered compensation was $3,200. It was meant to cover living and moving expenses and was on top of the $1,500 offered earlier.

It didn't even sound good on the surface, the family says.

Tarion says that once the closing date is missed by 120 days, buyers are eligible to receive $100 a day for living expenses, plus additional amounts for furniture storage and moving. The maximum payout is $5,000.

In the Smiths case, the closing date had been missed by more than six months and using the Tarion guidelines, they would certainly be eligible for the maximum.

"I argued and told them that was not right, that they could not include the $1,500 from a previous compensation. I asked for the full $5,000 which we would be entitled to from Tarion," Ms. Smith said. Tartan refused.

"I think that Tartan could have been more compassionate and understanding of the predicament they put us in."

That's the saga. The compensation issue did end shortly before the closing date. The couple accepted Tartan's offer because, as Mr. Smith put it, "it wasn't worth the argument anymore."

The family is in the new home now, but they are still upset. The house has had some deficiencies and is still being worked on.

"It's been quite the journey," Mr. Smith said yesterday.

Part 2:  Tartan comes through

Tony Cote, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, September 14, 2006

Linda and Jeremy Smith are a little better off today, thanks to Tartan's Ian Nicol.
The home builder read Tuesday's Action Line column outlining the series of delays and postponements the couple went through after purchasing their new home last year and reacted quickly and positively.

The column had caught Mr. Nicol off guard because, like everyone else who runs a major company, he was unaware of all of the details surrounding the Smiths' purchase and subsequent occupancy of the home.

The Smiths had purchased the Tartan home in 2005 and because of construction permit delays didn't get into it for nearly seven months after the expected closing. Tartan offered $4,700 in compensation for the delay.
That's the gist of what was written.

"Please be advised that while I was aware of general matters at our River's Bend neighbourhood, I was not fully aware of the particular situation regarding their purchase," the general manager told me, adding that after reading the column he pulled the file for a thorough review.

"Tartan's goal is to deliver well-built homes in first-class communities in the Ottawa region. We want all of our customers to be satisfied with their new home."
He explained that the delays in meeting closing dates fell out of his firm's control and were directly related to the approval process with government.

"Closing date delays are a tremendous inconvenience for purchasers," he agreed. "Obviously, closing date delays affect customer satisfaction and there is no advantage to Tartan to delay them.

"At the time Mr. and Mrs. Smith purchased a home at River's Bend (February 2005), Tartan estimated road construction would be completed by mid-June 2005, with home construction starting immediately thereafter.

"Accordingly, a closing date of mid-December 2005 was initially established," he said. "Unfortunately, establishing closing date schedules for a new subdivision like River's Bend is not a perfect science. Many variables such as land planning approvals, road construction and home building construction scheduling are taken into account when assigning closing dates.

"In this particular instance, the timing to complete the land planning approvals process was delayed, which caused problems with closing date scheduling, much like a domino-effect.

"When it became apparent that the land planning process would cause closing date delays, Tartan promptly communicated with them, advising of the situation in general and extending their closing date in particular," Mr. Nicol explained.

"In good faith, I'm confident that Tartan staff were forthright and honest at all times with Mr. and Mrs. Smith regarding their closing date.

"Previously, Tartan had finalized a compensation package with Mr. and Mrs. Smith to compensate them for the closing date delay beyond the allowable timeline as set out by the Tarion Warranty Corporation. Accordingly, this compensation amount was paid to Mr. and Mrs. Smith earlier this summer. This compensation amount fully adheres to Tarion guidelines.

 "Now that I have personally reviewed their file and am fully aware of their circumstances prior to the actual closing date, Tartan is pleased to offer Mr. and Mrs. Smith the additional compensation they are requesting."

That additional compensation amounts to $1,500.

In addition, he told me, a meeting has been scheduled with the couple for next week. Any issues that may be remaining will be discussed and sorted out then.
That has been a very good reaction.
Call Tony Cote, 613-596-3737, 9 a.m. to noon weekdays, or write: The Ottawa Citizen, Box 5020, Ottawa, K2C 3M4. Fax: 613-726-1198. E-mail: .