14 Jul 2015

    Home Renovation Nightmare! What Are Your Rights?

    You've owned your home for several years and it's time for a new look. You draw up plans, get estimates, hire a general contractor and eagerly await the splendour of your newly-renovated home.

    A year later, the job is barely started, your home is a mess, the project is way over budget and you are thinking about suing. Or you have been sued by a contractor that you haven’t met but understand that he or she was to complete a portion of the work. Are there any special considerations that apply to a legal dispute over renovation or construction work?


    Ontario's Construction Lien Act creates special protections to ensure that construction contractors are paid fairly. The act allows a contractor who claims that he/she has not been paid to register a construction lien against the property on which it has performed work. A construction lien is a registration placed on title to the property and provides notice that there is a dispute over payment for work done. This will effectively prevent you, the owner from selling your property until the dispute has been resolved.


    The law allows the registration of construction liens because of the unique nature of the construction industry. Work on a construction or renovation project will often be performed by subcontractors who sign a contract with the general contractor, or with another subcontractor, but who do not have a contract with the owner of the property. However, the work done by the subcontractor improves the property and increases its value to the benefit of the property owner. As a result, subcontractors who claim they have not been paid are allowed to register construction liens, even though the disagreement is with the general contractor, not you, the owner of the property.

    You, as the property owner however, will have liability limited to 10 percent of the value of the work performed. What this means is that you are expected to refrain from paying the general contractor 10% of the contract price (i.e. 10% should be deducted from the amount you pay to the general contractor in case the general contractor fails to pay the subcontractors). Additionally, if a construction lien has been registered but you wish to sell the property, you may pay the funds in dispute to the court which will hold this money until the outcome of the lawsuit has been decided and the court has determined who is entitled to this money. Meanwhile, the lien is removed.


    A number of time limits apply under the Construction Lien Act and, as a homeowner; you may be able to rely upon these time limits to have the construction lien against your property removed. On the other hand, if you are a contractor, it is important that you are aware of these time limits and that you move quickly to protect your rights. The first basic requirement is that a lien be registered on title within 45 days of when the work is completed or abandoned. The second requirement is that a lawsuit be started within 45 days after the last day on which the lien could have been registered (i.e. 90 days after the work is completed or abandoned). The third requirement is that the lawsuit must be ready for trial within two years after it was started. If any of these requirements are not met, the lien may be removed. However, the contractor is still permitted to sue the property owner, although it will not be permitted to benefit from the security provided by a construction lien.


    Construction law is a highly specialized field and, in Toronto, most construction lien cases are decided by masters, rather than judges. Masters are judicial officials who are less powerful than judges and normally deal with procedural issues in a lawsuit. The masters have developed expertise in construction law issues and normally deal with all aspects of these cases, including the trial.

    This article provides only a very basic overview of how the law governing construction liens operates. If you are a homeowner involved in a dispute with a contractor, or if you are a contractor and have not been paid, please contact us for more information about your rights under the Construction Lien Act.

    Walker Law's Andrew Ostrom also contributed to this article.

    Read 2873 times Last modified on Friday, 04 September 2020 14:33
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    Walker Law Professional Corporation

    Tanya Walker obtained her law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University in 2005 and her Honours Bachelor of Commerce with a minor in Economics from McMaster University in 2002. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006 and created Walker Law a litigation law firm in 2010. Tanya is currently serving a term as Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario; elected by her peers as not only the first Black elected female Bencher from Toronto, in the 220-year history of the Law Society, but also as one of the youngest sitting Benchers.
 Tanya is a frequent speaker on legal issues to the Toronto Community and regularly appears on the CTV Show, Your Morning as a legal expert. She has also been named in the 2017 and 2018 Lexpert Guides as one of the Leading Lawyers to Watch in Corporate/Commercial Litigation and is also the recipient of the 2018 Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year Award.

 Tel: 647-342-2334 ext. 302 
 Email: tanya(at)tcwalkerlawyers.com


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