Homeowners’ protection

One of the websites we become aware of a while ago is  C.O.N.S. online, the website of the Condominium Owners of Nova Scotia.  With the Railtown Condos  reputedly in receivership before really even being finished and signed off to owners,   it seems timely to update our readers with material linked there. Mainly as a result of pressure by the C.O.N.S. group, there is new legislation, as of November 2008, which should improve the situation of new or prospective homeowners, including prospective condominum owners.

The Homeowner Protection Act introduced today, Nov. 7, offers deposit protection to Nova Scotians who enter into construction agreements for new homes….

“This is the first step in developing a comprehensive approach to protecting buyers of new homes,” said Jamie Muir, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. “It’s very clear we need a mechanism to protect consumers’ purchase deposits on homes not yet completed.”

An independent review of homeowner protection was recently completed at the request of government.

And the request of  C.O.N.S.!

It investigated concerns relating to insufficient purchase deposit protection, poor construction workmanship, water penetration, construction deficiencies, and the perceived lack of recourse for homebuyers.

The review was undertaken by an independent consultant, Novus Consulting Group, and included extensive consultation with industry, a review of other jurisdictions, and public consultations.

The consultant’s final report identified problems largely within the condominium sector.

Our empahsis.

It also included eight recommendations to improve homeowner protection. One of the recommendations forms the basis of the new legislation.

“If this legislation is passed, Nova Scotians who purchase residential units that are in the construction phase will have their deposits placed in trust, thereby reducing the potential financial loss to consumers,” said Mr. Muir.

We couldn’t believe this wasn’t already a requirement.

Other recommendations include creating a registry of builders and developers; a mandatory home warranty program for at least all newly constructed condominiums; mandatory inspections by independent inspectors of condominium buildings more than three storeys for water penetration and building envelope failure; and homebuyer education….

As you perhaps remember we have already commented on the lack of proper inspection for larger developments. Also hard to believe. Here is what CONS had to say about inspection in HRM in their Spring 2008 newsletter.

Most of you are aware of HRM’s Council’s refusal to listen to our presentation last month. The purpose of our presentation was to demonstrate the lack of proper inspection on new buildings in the metro area and, we suspect, at large. The reason for such a refusal was given by HRM’s Chief Administration Officer who claimed that it was “Presumptuous of CONS to assume the problems encountered by home and condo owners have come from a failure of HRM’s inspection program as HRM has the most comprehensive and best resourced in Atlantic Canada.”, as reported in an 8 Feb. 2008 Daily News article! (emph. ours)

Sounds like our CAO!

Beside the fact that HRM lacks a condominium inspection’s program, here are more comments written by home owners following the 8 Feb. Daily News:

Some very shabby work done on these condos. Speed not quality is the name of the game. Project managers who have absolutely no construction experience, inspectors with electrical experience inspecting carpentry or vice-versa. Some of these decks these inspectors have passed amazed me; shabby, shabby and shabby.”

In Halifax we may as well not have any building inspectors. The amount of work being done to fix shabby built condos, (less than five years old), in HRM is astonishing. If we had good qualified inspectors that would not happen.”

“HRM building inspection is a joke.”

At one time condos and homes inspections were carried out by CMHC. At the urging of provinces and BUILDERS, that task was given to them. Look what happened… nothing.”

These are but a few of the letters to the editor. If HRM has the best building construction inspection program in the Atlantic, beware if you live outside HRM!

You can replace HRM with any municipality’s name in the following.

After CONS executives met with the Carpenters’ and Electrical Workers’ Union representatives, here are some of the fact we uncovered:

· HRM has no inspection requirements for condominiums

· most condominiums are built by non-union electrical contractors – the savings to a builder, about 30%

· HRM is not responsible for inspecting condominium construction. The developer assigns this to his project manager. Very much like the mouse guarding the cheese!

Shocking, huh?

The full report by Novus referred to in the above press release is here on the C.O.N.S. site.

The actual legislation is here. The Act received assent Nov. 25th 2008. Much is covered in the regulations. The devil is in the details.

We fear these requirements are too late for some Railtown buyers who will not be covered.

This story from HRM via CONS is sobering.

Repairs to one condominium, which had substantial  damage through the ingress of water, causing walls and floors to be replaced, plus replacement of the entire outside protective layer of waterproof sheeting, has now been completed at a cost to the owners of approximately $1,700,000.
This restoration took several months to complete.  However, this condominium  is now in as good a condition as any condominium building in the province because an engineering firm was brought in to carry out the inspection of the work of the contractor…………. a far cry from the non-existent inspections currently in place by the province and HRM.

We leave our readers with the following message from CONS:

If you are aware of problems and deficiencies in your building, please do not hesitate nor be embarrassed to inform us. We need as much information as possible to demonstrate to the province and HRM, the need to improve the system. Your building will not be identified in any submission from C.O.N.S.

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5 responses to “Homeowners’ protection

  1. Inspections are necessary but not sufficient to solve these construction problems. The core of the problem is that construction companies can get away with hiring under-qualified people to do the work. There are not enough apprentices completing their training — because it is more profitable for construction companies to use unskilled labour than invest in training/employing craftsmen. Changing the legislation to require a higher ratio of qualified workers to unskilled workers will improve the quality of construction and will also improve the productivity of the NS workforce.

    Obviously, inspectors also need to be properly qualified and motivated. The NS bureaucracy is not exactly known for its productivity — especially here in Wolfville where copious tax-dollars are most efficiently turned into hot air.

    We need better bureaucracy and less of it! My bet is that the government will respond with another layer of ineffective legislation that will be unenforced by hiring yet another department of pointless bureaucrats.

  2. Robert G. Holmes

    As one who worked in construction, as a project certifier, I would ask for Railtown:

    Who was the Architect of Record?

    Who certified payments to the Constructor?

    NS is behind the rest in Contractor Certification procedures, and we keep paying a high price for low standard design and construction methodology.

    Robert

  3. While adding more inspectors helps, doing so addresses individual occurrences. But if the contractor or his sub contractors has faulty processes in place, or worse, if the design is faulty, many more problems will propagate than can be addressed by an inspector.
    http://go.geedra.com/7j9d

  4. Robert G. Holmes

    I think we are saying the same thing.

    What form of contract document was in place on Railtown.

    How well was the contract administered?

    Were contract delays a factor?

    What materials substitutions and design changes were introduced?

    How did the Cost Management issues unfold?

    Was the constructor pre-qualified? What is the bid history?

    etc.

    Good case study for Construction Managers.

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