In My Opinion: With home reno boom, mediation is a good way to resolve disputes

There's lots of home renovation work going on both locally and across the country. Beach Metro News file photo.

By AFSANA GIBSON-CHOWDHURY

The HomeStars 2020 Reno Report showed a staggering 80 per cent of homeowners surveyed began renovation projects since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March of 2020.

Although these numbers are not based specifically in the Beach area in Toronto, being a local resident, I know how prolific renovations are here in our community.

Often, given the ages of some the houses, renovations become essential and the pandemic has given us the perfect excuse to get started. But what happens if the renovation isn’t what you expected it to be? Or if it is defective?

In Ontario, under the Consumer Protection Act, home renovation projects over $50 must be in writing.

The contract should contain details, including the name of the contractor, description of the work required, materials and labour costs, and the date of completion.

I recently mediated a case involving a basement renovation, where the plaintiff claimed the defendant’s work was defective and negligent. After spending thousands of dollars, the homeowners alleged they were left with a basement that was not correctly waterproofed. The renovation took place in a house that was more than 100 years old.

Contractors who frequently work in older homes have a greater knowledge of the environment and the surprises that may loom beyond the surfaces. Providing clients with reasonable assurance and offering suitable solutions is essential.

In Jayde Mechanical Inc. v Szabo, 2017 CanLII 45933 (ON SCSM) the defendants owned a cottage in Lake Erie. The plaintiff, (a contractor) was retained to replace the boiler.

He followed the manufacturers instructions when installing it, but the boiler failed to function. The defendant did not pay the full invoice amount, which lead the plaintiff to file a claim.

After 10 days in court the judge summarized that the work was not suitable for the purpose and that a contractor must understand the circumstances and intended use by the consumer and try to reasonably achieve this.

The claim was dismissed on the basis that contractor inflated his prices and the Defendant still benefited from the boiler after it was properly installed.

In a basement that is more than a 100 years old, a contractor should look to the environment to ensure adequate waterproofing can be provided.

Litigation is by nature an unpredictable process. High emotions can arise in these cases because someone’s home and a contractor’s reputation are at stake.

Against the monetary value of the case and the potential legal fees and expenses, it was in the best interest of the disputants to find a negotiated solution regarding the work to the basement.

With the increase in renovation projects in Ontario, disputes of this nature would serve as a cost and time saving measure to proceed outside of the traditional court system.

So, what is mediation and does it work?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, which facilitates a resolution between two or more parties before a case goes to trial.

It is a structured and interactive process, whereby an impartial party known as “The Mediator”, assists disputing parties to resolve a conflict through a negotiated agreement.

Mediation allows you to control a solution that best suits your needs. If a solution is reached by all the parties, the terms of settlement become binding in a court of law.

What are the benefits of mediating?

Mediation is a extremely beneficial process for many reasons. Going to court can be expensive and risky. If the judge does not decide in your favour, you may have to pay the other side’s costs.

Mediation provides a faster resolution to your case. Depending on the mediator’s availability, you can settle your dispute within weeks rather than years. Mediation is most beneficial because the parties can choose how they wish to settle.

When should I mediate?

You can mediate your dispute before filing the case with a court. If you have already filed your case, you can still mediate at any stage before the trial begins.
How much do mediator’s charge?

Mediator rates can vary depending on experience, seniority, and the time it takes to mediate your case. This is something you may want to research.

Often mediators will offer tailored fees depending on the type of case you have. There are some mediators that also offer pro bono services.

Afsana Gibson-Chowdhury is a Beach resident, mediator and lawyer.


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