So you’re about to move into your brand new home. It’s all been built by a quality builder and inspected by the municipal building department, so it’s perfect, right? Well…the inspectors in most jurisdictions try their best to keep up with how homes are built, but well, it’s complicated.
When a house is being built, a lot is going on, and it’s impossible for anyone to keep track of everything. No builder or city or municipality has the resources to be on site 24x7. And with all the activity, not everything will go right all of the time no matter how professional and well-intentioned the crew. And that doesn’t even bring weather or gravity into the equation. The process of building homes is complicated.
So when the builder does a pre-delivery “inspection” (PDI) with a buyer, there are bound to be things about the home that aren’t perfect. Now, this might not be the best time for you to have a full-on home inspection. Your builder’s representative has a list of things to do during this inspection from providing information about the heating and air conditioning system controls, to ensure that all of the agreed upon finishes are to the buyer’s satisfaction, to providing details about the home’s warranty. That’s right; there’s a warranty. In Ontario, we have the Tarion new home warranty program that is backed by the Provincial Government and the Homebuilder’s Association. So you’re protected, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
A lot of things covered under the Tarion warranty have to be identified pretty early to ensure that you established when the issue occurred (and therefore who is responsible). Ideally, this would be at the PDI, but as I said, your builder has a lot of things they need to do during the PDI, and the timeframe usually doesn’t allow for a full in-depth inspection. So you could be missing some warranty coverage by moving into the home without an inspection.
If possible, hire a home inspector to go through the home with you as early as possible on or after the possession date (not always the same as the day of the PDI). If that’s not possible, after all, you’re probably moving on that day - as soon after you move in as you can arrange it would be a good time for another set of eyes to look for things that were missed. The Tarion warranty program allows you to submit a claim for these early issues to your builder and Tarion within the first thirty days. The earlier you identify issues, the easier it is to establish when they were created and have it resolved.
If you don’t find issues in the first thirty days, your next opportunity to submit a claim is in the last thirty days of the first year. That’s perfect because that’s when a house will really start to settle in. It’s not unusual for issues to start showing up in this period because stresses begin to affect the home.
The stress of having people living in it. Stresses from weather and our old friend gravity. The soil around the home was disturbed to build the house, and it will settle. And the weight of the building itself will apply forces on the building materials. Things that may have been hidden before may start to show up, or flaws in the materials themselves may not be able to deal with these stresses.
Not all of the wear and tear that a building is subject to will be covered under the warranty program. Typical shrinkage cracks from concrete drying, for example, are normal and expected. The framing will shift a bit. Scuffs and chips caused by homeowners or issues caused by a failure to maintain the home will typically not be covered. But the one-year time frame is when cracks caused by uneven settling of the house can become noticeable and should be identified.
The roof, exterior, windows and doors of the home have seen a year of weather so there may be issues that weren’t visible initially but become revealed. So about thirty days before your first year anniversary would be another time to hire a home inspector to help you identify all the issues that may have come to the surface. That also allows enough time that if there are more complicated issues that require further investigation by a specialist like a structural engineer, there is still time to arrange it before the anniversary and the window closes for more warranty claims.
This thirty day window at the end of the first year brings to a close the ability to claim many of the issues relating to workmanship or materials in construction, but it’s not the end of the warranty. The second year of the warranty still covers many health and safety issues identified in the Ontario Building code as well as water penetration through the building envelope among other things.
There is a difference though, as in the second year you are not restricted to specific reporting periods and can make multiple claims. So if you notice an issue, you can certainly make a claim anytime in the second year. But as you approach the end of the year, maybe thirty days before your second anniversary, would be a good time for another inspection to identify as much as you can while you still can. It would be helpful for the inspector if you take note of things that you notice during the year. That way the inspection can piece together the whole picture with as much information as possible.
After the second year of living in the home, the home will continue to face the stresses of having occupants, the weather and gravity working on it. That’s something most people don’t think about, but homes are continually changing. Unfortunately, many issues arising in the period after two years of occupancy aren’t covered by a warranty, but some are. These are issues that fall into the category of Major Structural Defects.
If something in the way the home was built, or the materials used have flaws that appear as major structural defects within the first seven years, you may be able to have it repaired by making a claim directly with Tarion. I won’t go into all the possible issues or details of how this works. But if you’re having issues during this period, it would be good to get some advice from someone who could assess the situation accurately.
There’s one more subject about the Tarion warranty that I’d like to touch on. I’ll write more about it in an upcoming blog post. The subject is Radon. You may or may not heard about Radon, but it’s becoming a more common topic in building circles because builders and governments are becoming more aware of it. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada and living in modern homes may be raising our exposure to it. Luckily, governments and builders are starting to deal with it, and it is also covered under the Tarion warranty program. I’ll save the details for the next blog post, but if you have a new home, it’s a good idea to have it tested for Radon by a professional so that if the Radon levels in your home are high, you can get Tarion to help pay to reduce them.
People think of a Home Inspection as something you do when you buy or sell a house. While it’s important to have the home inspected at those times, you can hire an inspector any time for a variety of reasons. As mentioned here, even new homes should be inspected!