When you went to the sales office, you probably fell in love with the home that you saw pictured in the glossy brochure. It was pristine, accessorized and, above all, finished.
But on moving day, you walked into what felt like a construction zone. Maybe your dream home was missing some of your carefully chosen finishes or maybe even a couple of basic functional features like working sinks in all the bathrooms. You wonder how your home could be considered ready for you to move in.
Unfortunately, ‘finished’ and ‘ready for occupancy’ do not necessarily mean the same thing.
For a home to be deemed ready for occupancy by the municipality, it must meet the minimum standards for occupancy as dictated by the Ontario Building Code.
Not ‘up to code’
For a home to be deemed ready for occupancy by the municipality, it must meet the minimum standards for occupancy as dictated by the Ontario Building Code (OBC).
The OBC is a set of regulations under the Building Code Act that help safeguard public safety in newly constructed buildings, but also cover things like energy conservation and barrier-free accessibility. All builders are required to meet OBC standards in their construction projects. This is where the phrase ‘building to code’ comes from as well as the statement that something ‘isn’t up to code’ when it doesn’t meet the standards.
OBC standards are set by the province, and enforced by municipal building departments. Municipal building officials are in charge of issuing building permits and conducting scheduled inspections at various points during construction of a home. These inspections primarily focus on major components of the home – for example, the plumbing and electrical systems – and the safety features.
Assessing the home
When it comes to assessing whether a home is ready for occupancy, the municipality will confirm that all outstanding deficiencies noted in previous inspections have been addressed and that the minimum occupancy requirements set out in the OBC have been met. If a home meets those standards, the municipality can grant an occupancy permit and it will be ready for you to move in.
So if your granite countertops aren’t installed in the kitchen, for example, this wouldn’t affect the occupancy permit. But if the railing on your balcony is missing, that may be a safety issue that would not meet the minimum standards for occupancy.
The reality is that in some cases, there may be finishing that happens after you move in. Understandably, this can be frustrating and Tarion often receives calls from homeowners asking questions and looking for answers.
It’s important for you to know that Tarion does not inspect homes during construction or issue occupancy permits – the municipality does. What Tarion does is administer the Ontario New Home Warranty Plan, which sets out the builder’s mandatory minimum warranty coverage and repair timelines. Your date of possession marks the start of a series of warranties – one-year, two-year and seven-year – covering various aspects of your home and providing coverage of up to $300,000.
So what do you do if you have an occupancy permit that says you can move in but your home isn’t exactly ‘finished’?
Your Pre-Delivery Inspection or PDI is an opportunity to note anything that’s missing, damaged or not working in your new home. The PDI Form serves as a record of the state of your home and a to-do list for your builder. You can also contact your municipal building department if you believe there may be OBC violations. You should make sure to report to Tarion any missing or incomplete finishing items, and any other concerns, on your 30-Day or Year-End warranty form.
If your new home is a bit more of a ‘dream’ than a ‘reality’, it’s good to know that there is help available. For more on warranty coverage and how Tarion can help, visit Tarion.com.