Sarnia has been part of Tarion pilot project since 2015Published: 2017-10-19
By Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer Original Article
Every year a handful of people walk into Sarnia’s building department planning to build their own house. Many don’t know what they’re doing, said Alan Shaw, Sarnia’s chief building official. “What ends up happening is you rely on the building department as your quality control,” he said. If it’s someone who’s building a house and planning to live in it and they need some help, that’s fine, he said. But if it’s an unlicenced home builder looking to turn a profit, that’s an issue.
“What we’re finding is people who are second-income developers – people who have other jobs but they’re trying to make money,” Shaw said. “They’ve seen (renovation programs on television) and think it’s easy to flip a house and make a buck.” That’s not the case, Shaw said. “Where you’re acting as a professional, where the intent is to make a dollar, you’re a businessman and as a businessman you should know what business you’re in and you shouldn’t be relying on other people to do your job.”
Since 2015 Sarnia has been part of a pilot project with provincial homebuilder regulator Tarion, referring unlicenced would-be home builders to the agency for education. The idea is to head off illegal home building – it’s illegal to build and sell in Ontario if unlicenced – before it starts, said Tarion vice-president Siloni Waraich. Unlicenced home builders aren’t backed with the seven-year warranty Tarion offers on defective construction, and in some cases can cut and run before a job is finished, she said.
“We’ve seen some really sad stories around that, people losing their life investments,” said Waraich, in Sarnia recently to speak at the Sarnia Lambton Home Builders Association annual meeting. Home builders are also liable for any job site injuries, she said. The pilot project has been effective in curbing the amount of illegal builders locally, though some still choose to build in their own name and then sell after living in the house two or three days, said Shaw, past president with the Ontario Building Officials Association. Applicants to the city’s building department often come back with a licenced builder after talking with Tarion, he said, or they don’t come back at all.
“We issue somewhere around 80 to 100 home permits a year and I would say we probably get six to 10” unlicenced, he said. Others are going to other municipalities, he said. “We’ve seen neighbouring municipalities ask if they can be part of the program.” Through September, Sarnia has issued 82 permits for single-family homes this year.
Sarnia was one of the original six municipalities in the Tarion pilot, and now about 15 are part of it, said Waraich. Hopes are the province introduces legislation making the referral process mandatory, she said. It’s been good for local licenced builders, said Scott Henderson, president of the Sarnia Lambton Homebuilders Association.
“I think it’s helping to push more work.” About 5,400 homebuilders are licenced through Tarion, Waraich said.