Buyers Should Never Be Bullied

Mar 17th, 2023

Buying a new home is one of the largest purchases anyone can make. New home buyers should feel comfortable and supported throughout the process.

The Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA) has made it clear to Ontario home builders and vendors that there is no place for intimidation, coercion or obstruction in the new home buying process. For example, a builder must not threaten to sue a purchaser for filing a complaint against them; nor are they allowed to cite the complaint as part of a civil suit against the consumer. It is also against the rules for a builder to prevent or dissuade the purchaser from filing a complaint in any way, even if they believe the complaint has no merit. The HCRA’s complaint process includes a rigorous review of information by both the complainant and the licensee, ensuring a fair and evidence-based outcome.

It’s also unacceptable for builders to use forceful tactics to pressure a homeowner into making a decision. Examples of this behaviour could look like pressuring a homeowner to sign an amended contract before they obtain legal advice or verbally abusing the homeowner.

While the specifics of any situation may vary, the rules are unequivocal that using coercion or intimidation as a tool to influence a purchaser’s decisions or actions is considered professional misconduct.

To communicate these expectations, the HCRA issued an Advisory to Ontario’s 6,500+ licensees reiterating their legal and ethical obligations. An Advisory is one way for the HCRA to clarify regulations and remind the industry of standards for conduct.

Under the province’s Code of Ethics, the expectations for new home builders and vendors are clear:

  • Never use intimidation or coercion or apply undue pressure to any person
  • Never pressure a person to withdraw (or to not submit) a complaint or concern to the HCRA related to a licensee’s conduct

Expectations of Builders and Vendors

The Advisory was issued to licensees after the HCRA took disciplinary action against a builder that threatened a consumer about filing a complaint with the HCRA. This type of behaviour is rare, but the Advisory served as a clear reminder that consumers should never feel bullied, intimidated or coerced and should never be obstructed from raising concerns about a licensee with the regulator.

The HCRA’s complaints process is an important pillar of consumer protection and serves as a way to draw attention to potential and real harm faced by consumers. Under no circumstance should the ability to submit a complaint be obstructed by a licensee. The complaints process should never be used by licensees as an instrument to influence consumer behaviour. It is meant to be a recourse for consumers – entirely at their own discretion.

Consumers should familiarize themselves with the Advisory and use it to best understand conduct expectations for licensees.

The Consequences

We know that most home builders and vendors in Ontario understand – and adhere to – ethical conduct expectations. However, for the small number of licensees who stray from these principles, there will be consequences.

If a licensee has breached their obligations under the Code of Ethics, which is part of the legislation governing new home builders, the HCRA has power to:

  • Mandate training
  • Review a licensee’s ongoing entitlement to a licence – this includes potentially revoking or suspending a licence
  • Propose conditions on a licence
  • Refer the matter to the HCRA’s Discipline Committee, who may mandate training or issue a fine/impose costs
  • Impose an administrative penalty, which is like a fine, of up to $20,000 for instances of obstruction
  • Lay a provincial offences charge with a maximum penalty of $50,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a company or organization

To keep consumers protected and informed, the HCRA publishes decisions and actions against licensees on the Ontario Builder Directory and the Regulatory Action and Enforcement webpage.

If you have concerns regarding the conduct of a builder or vendor, please complete this form.

The HCRA will continue to educate and remind the builders and vendors it licenses about their ethical obligations, to follow the rules, and that bullying will not be tolerated.