Photo by Whitehorse Star
NDP MLA Kate White
Photo by Whitehorse Star
NDP MLA Kate White
The Yukon government says it will explore the idea of an effective warranty program for new home construction and home renovations.
Yukon NDP MLA Kate White raised the issue Wednesday in the legislature.
She asked the government to develop and introduce homeowner protection legislation that includes a warranty program and mandatory licensing for home builders and contractors.
“Even the fact that we’re going to entertain this conversation is important,” White told the Star this morning.
“I think this is a great opportunity to have a community dialogue.”
Currently in the territory, she noted, condominium groups and home owners have to take builders to court to recoup costs from repair work.
“That’s not acceptable,” she said.
White added that a home is typically the biggest purchase a person will make in his or her lifetime. Meanwhile, other big purchases like new vehicles don’t get sold without a warranty.
“What I ultimately want to make sure of is that when we know that people are going to buy the single largest asset in their lives, the second they sign that cheque, they don’t lose everything they put into it,” she told the legislature.
White also pointed to legislation in other jurisdictions in Canada where homebuyers must be provided with a third party warranty.
The “gold standard”, she said, is the 2-5-10 year home warranty in British Columbia and Alberta.
This provides two years’ coverage for defects on labour and material, five years’ coverage on the building envelope, and 10 years’ coverage on major structural items.
“Why would we not want to offer home buyers here the same confidence and the same protection?” she questioned.
Community Services Minister John Striecker told the house the government is open to looking at best practices across Canada, making sure that a home warranty program would fit in with existing programs, and engaging with local contractors.
He said that programs in other jurisdictions are not without problems. Those include adding costs to construction and placing a “regulatory burden” on home builders.
“We need to balance the risks to our citizens. It is a good conversation to have,” he said.
Streicker also noted that, “we’re not starting with nothing.”
“The Department of Community Services is confident that we currently operate a robust building inspection process for new buildings and renovations,” he said.
Currently in the territory, new home construction and home renovations must comply with safety standards under the National Building Code and Yukon laws for electricity and heating.
Before being deemed as meeting the code, a building will receive between five and eight inspections by a Yukon government or City of Whitehorse building inspector, Streicker said.
The building safety and standards branch also inspects electrical, gas, elevators and large boiler installations in municipal buildings.
Mobile homes have to meet the Canadian Standards Association’s safety code during factory construction.
More red tape
Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers also expressed concerns that legislation could add more red tape and costs for small home builders.
But White said issues arise when the inspectors leave, as they can’t be on site 24/7.
The vast majority of home builders won’t be adversely affected because they stand by their work, she added.
“All contractors are not created equal,” she said.
“This is not meant to be a punishment to those who build really quality buildings and stand behind their products.
“This is more to make sure that if you were unfortunate and hired someone who you thought was building your home, you have the ability to address those issues.”
This is not the first time the issue has been raised in the legislature by the Yukon NDP.
It was first brought forward by the late Todd Hardy, then the leader of the party. He said he spent most of his professional career as a carpenter fixing improper work, White reminded the house.
It was debated again in 2012 after being raised by former NDP MLA Kevin Barr.
White noted that 2012 was the “pinnacle of the housing crisis” and the conversation “got a little heated.”
Based on past debates on the issue, White said she is glad that the government is open to public consultation and hopes that ultimately it leads to effective change.
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