Ontario’s home building regulator gained new powers to impose financial penalties on builders, then revoked the license of one builder and froze the assets of another.
The Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA) gained the ability to add administrative penalties up to $50,000 per occurrence, effective February 1, 2023. Two weeks later, it delivered its most severe penalty to a builder, revoking the license of Albion Building Consultant Inc, after the builder failed to enrol homes in the warranty program of Tarion.
Less than a week later, it froze the assets and suspended the license of Ottawa-area builder Highbridge Construction after it unexpectedly ceased operations after taking deposits from purchasers on multiple new home construction projects.
HCRA CEO and Registrar Wendy Moir said revocation of a license in a case like Albion is the “most severe consequence” a builder can face. “We sincerely hope this is a rare occurrence – but we will use it to send a clear message to the industry and ensure that consumers are protected.”
Albion will be allowed to complete homes under construction, in order to protect the interests of buyers. Albion was convicted in Ontario Court for failing to enrol in the Tarion warranty program 11 homes it had built. Albion was sentenced in court to a fine of $15,000 plus a $3,750 victim fine surcharge for each house. The total amount of $206,250 remains unpaid to the courts, HCRA said.
Albion’s principals were also convicted, and HCRA noted that prior to these convictions, Albion and its officers and directors had a “history of non-compliance for building homes without registering as a builder and for failing to enrol new homes in the Greater Toronto Area, including convictions in 2016 and 2019.”
HCRA said Highbridge had not responded to earlier demands for records or to inquiries about the status of purchasers’ deposits, and had failed to comply with the HCRA inspection.
HCRA received greater enforcement powers including the ability to assess monetary penalties, in 2022. Funds collected from builders may be used to compensate negatively impacted consumers, depending on circumstances. HCRA may also consider whether a licensed builder benefited from breaking the law and possibly assess an additional penalty to negate that benefit.
The HCRA release noting the use of the new authority said Ontario was the first province to potentially redirect funds from builders to consumers.