Working for Healthy, Safe, Durable, Energy Efficient Housing for Canadians since 2004

Dispute Resolution

Canadians For Properly Built Homes > What We’ve Learned > Dispute Resolution

Among the pillars that support an adequate new home construction regime in any province – building code enforcement, a multi-provider warranty system, and fair and efficient dispute resolution – consumers should expect to have access to effective dispute resolution that settles matters equitably under an accessible process focussed on avoiding court proceedings.

Ontario has none of these characteristics. Of the approximately 225,000 homes built in Canada each year (annually in 2017), 60,000 or more are built in Ontario.

Avenues for Dispute Resolution

In general terms, the steps in dispute resolution may include:

  • first you go to the builder: be prepared to compromise and, while the outcome may not be to your entire satisfaction, resolving the issue allows you to get on with your life
  • next step is the warranty provider
  • approach your provincial MPP, who is supposed to be your advocate since consumer protection in Canada rests at the provincial level
  • the municipality may be able to help
  • consider the mainstream media and/or social media, which can sometimes help, although media must choose their language carefully to avoid slander/defamation suits
  • next stop is with the adjudicator, known as the LAT in Ontario, although consumers tell us not to go there
  • the courts are the absolute last resort — small claims court can be a more reasonable option. Beware that if you go to court and lose, you may be liable for the other sides’ legal costs, etc.

The Courts

We suggest that homeowners only go the legal route as an absolute last resort. Most homeowners do not have the resources to get into a legal battle, be it financial, emotional or otherwise. Many decide to take it on as a self-represented litigants — and they often struggle. They find themselves up against the very deep pockets of the builder and warranty provider whose lawyers are highly experienced.

Going the legal route is very difficult, time consuming, stressful and expensive, and typically takes a number of years. There is no guarantee of the outcome. Sometimes, if homeowners are lucky and well down the road, they will be offered a settlement, which will never make them whole, and usually comes along with a non-disclosure (or gag order) so the details of how their fight to get the house they paid for are never known.

Here is a link to a list of Legal Judgements that may be of interest: Learn More

British Columbia

In BC, the leaky condo crisis brought many hard lessons about enforcing building codes, warranties and dispute resolution. It is said to be the worst housing disaster in Canadian history.

There, you will find a mandatory mediation process as part of the Homeowner Protection Act. It compels the parties to find solutions where there are disagreements over warranty claims. While no system is perfect, homeowners in BC have told us that this system was helpful to them. Tony Gioventu, the Executive Director of the Condominium Home Owners’ Association of BC is also in favour of this system. He tells us that the “success of the system is due to the warranty providers who are private insurance providers who act competitively and manage their own risk independently through site inspections, peer reviews and financial assessments.” The multi-warranty provider system was put into place by the provincial government after the failure of the New Home Warranty Program in 1999.

The Case of Ontario’s License Appeal Tribunal (LAT): The place that fairness forgot

An example of how poorly such a system can run is Ontario’s LAT, which has come to be known as the place that fairness forgot. It has been the focus of countless consumer complaints, so much so that consumers have lost confidence in its processes and have all but stopped going there.

Thinking of going to the LAT?Read our Tip Sheet first: Click Here

Examples of problems include:

  • adjudicators who lack the training to deal with complex housing issues and self-represented litigants
  • a highly legalistic and adversarial approach where usually unrepresented homeowners face off with both Tarion’s and the builder’s lawyers
  • unacceptable administrative practices — lost transcripts by the LAT
  • lengthy hearing process delays
  • unfair cost awards and more.

And shockingly, even in the unlikely event that you win, the LAT HAS NO AUTHORITY TO ENFORCE ITS DECISIONS. You may have to go to court to get the decision enforced. The LAT’s executive acknowledged these shortcomings in 2014, but rather than addressing them, introduced regressive measures that further discourage homeowners from seeking justice there.

CPBH started taking a close look at the LAT early in its operations, met with government officials and LAT representatives. In 2006, CPBH undertook an analysis of LAT outcomes, a practice that has continued to this day. A special 10-year analysis was conducted in 2015.

In 2017, former Ontario Attorney General Naqvi advised that his ministry is monitoring the situation and asked for a status report which you will find linked below.

In January 2019, CPBH met with the then new Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney, where we raised the ongoing serious issues concerning the LAT: ongoing operational issues, lack of fairness, and its inability to enforce its own orders. She declined to make any changes. Likewise, in 2021, we met with the next Attorney General, Douglas Downey.  He also declined to make any changes. The annual analyses since 2006  show that homeowners lose about 85% of the time at the LAT. This is a highly improbable outcome, from a statistical perspective.

Sadly, far too many homeowners have advised CPBH that they feel that they have no option but to “patch and run” – that is, hide the construction defect(s) and put the home on the real estate market without disclosing the construction defect(s) to the next unsuspecting purchasers. They see this as the only way to escape an untenable and apparently unresolvable situation in the hopes of starting again, somewhere else, without losing their shirts.

Enforcing the building code and producing the house contracted for beats dispute resolution every time. But can you achieve this? In the current environment, you have to ask yourself, in all seriousness, if you are feeling lucky.   


Ontario – LAT Analyses and Report

CPBH’s yearly LAT analyses follow together with a report on the LAT prepared at the request of former Attorney General Yasir Naqvi in 2017.