Buying an accessible home? Tarion – and your builder – have your back

In the fall of 2017, the quest to purchase a first home was beginning to discourage Toronto residents Tim and Natalie Rose.

Due to Tim’s cerebral palsy and his trusty motorized wheelchair, the Roses had a few extra items on their list of new home must haves – most importantly, an accessible bathroom with a roll-in shower.

“We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we were probably going to be renting for our entire lives, just because there are very few fully accessible properties,” explains Tim.

With existing accessible homes in such high demand, the couple had been doubtful that a brand-new home could solve their quandary. However, all that changed one Sunday afternoon when they discovered a new program being offered by The Daniels Corporation – one of Tarion’s 2017 Homeowners’ Choice Award winners and currently a finalist for the 2018 awards.

“My wife happened to see on an accessible home buyers’ website that Daniels had just announced this project with purpose-built, accessible units, in a location that we really liked,” Tim recalls. “By the following Sunday, we had signed the mortgage commitment.”

Entitled the Accessibility Designed Program (ADP), Daniels’ initiative allows homebuyers with disabilities to choose from a range of accessibility features – such as modified counters or barrier-free doors – and have them installed, at no additional cost, in their brand-new condo.

“It was a really easy process,” says Tim. “They were really flexible with regards to us saying, for example: ‘we want the accessible bathroom, but we don’t want the accessible kitchen.’”

Other accessibility features on offer from Daniels – and a growing number of Ontario’s builders, especially in the custom home sector – include:

  • Under-sink clearance in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Swinging patio doors (instead of sliding doors with a raised track)
  • Bathroom grab bars

The inclusion of these features, though, presents a new question for buyers with disabilities: are they also covered under the warranty of the home?

Accessibility features and your new home’s warranty

If a builder is including accessibility features in the home they are building for you – and installing these without your help – there’s good news: those features are likely to be covered under your one-year warranty for issues related to “workmanship and materials” and/or substitutions warranties.

If you have any doubts that something may be covered, or for how long, your builder representative – or even Tarion’s customer service department – will be happy to help you find out.

If your new home is a condominium, you might be worried about coverage for the accessibility features you rely on outside of your front door – in the shared “common element” areas of your community. Since 2015, the Ontario Building Code has required all new multi-unit residential buildings to include accessible and barrier-free features in many of these areas.

If an issue does arise with one of your common elements’ accessibility features, you’re likely protected by the Code as well as your new home warranty, which is backstopped by Tarion. The problem may be warranted for up to one year (if it is related to work and materials or substitutions), or up to two years (if it comprises a violation of the Ontario Building Code).

Keep in mind that the warranty covering common elements is separate from the one covering your own home. Your condominium corporation is responsible for managing the common element warranty and reporting any defects – so if you spot defects, you should start by contacting them. Check out this page for more details on the common element warranty process.

To learn more about accessible common elements covered under warranty, check out Section 10 of Tarion’s Construction Performance Guidelines – Common Elements. This important document outlines the standards for construction of barrier-free common elements, and indicates how long the coverage will last for each possible issue.

Making a claim on barrier-free defects

If you encounter an issue with, for example, your new home’s roll-in shower that was installed by the builder, fear not – many builders will go out of their way to help you get this resolved. Start by contacting your builder’s representative and see what they can do to help.

If the builder does not fix the problem and you suspect the item may still be covered, it’s time to contact Tarion’s customer service team. They can help you confirm that the item may be covered and, if necessary, walk you through the process of making your claim.

A happy ending for the Roses

Now, Tim is counting down the months until he and Natalie can begin the adventure of picking out their paint colours, finishes, and fixtures. And of course, the couple is looking forward to their closing date – and to learning more about the warranty that will cover their first home.

“As first-time home buyers, knowing that there’s that warranty there on things like the roll-in shower – and those parts that are so important to me, from an accessibility standpoint – is a huge weight off my shoulders,” says Tim.

“I know that if something does happen, I’m not going to be completely stuck.”