As Canadians, we spend a lot of time talking about the weather. This year’s wild weather has certainly given us lots to talk about – and the winter promises a steady supply of conversation starters. For Ontario alone, the Farmer’s Almanac is forecasting “wide swings in the weather pendulum” and “occasional spells of tempestuous conditions”.
When extreme weather happens, Tarion will often receive calls from homeowners asking whether storm-related damage is covered under the warranty plan.
New homes that are designed and built to Ontario Building Code standards are expected to withstand Ontario’s normal weather conditions like ice, snow, high winds and heavy rains.
Under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act, however, warranties do not apply to damage resulting from an “act of God”. An act of God is a natural event that is unexpected and unavoidable and causes damage that is beyond the control of the builder.
A high wind, for example, is not an act of God unless it is of such exceptional strength that no builder in Ontario could be reasonably expected to anticipate its force.
This means that the act of God exclusion only applies to extraordinary occurrences or conditions of nature that could not have been reasonably foreseen or guarded against. Examples include tornadoes, earthquakes and extreme winds.
So, if you’re a new-home owner whose home has been damaged by an ice storm, heavy snowfall or high wind, what do you do? You should contact your builder, who in turn should inspect the damage to determine if warranty coverage applies. If it’s not covered, you may be able to make a claim for it under your home insurance.
If a homeowner reports damage after a weather event and the builder believes the act of God exclusion applies, the onus is on the builder to prove it. For example, if roof shingles on a newly built home flew off on a windy day, the builder would be required to replace the shingles unless the builder can prove the shingles were installed properly and became detached only because there was an extraordinary wind.
As we contend with Mother Nature’s extremes, what constitutes ‘normal’ Ontario weather may change and so may the requirements for building homes to withstand it. In the meantime, if you have questions about your warranty coverage or the act of God exclusions, you can contact Tarion at 1-877-9TARION or email firstname.lastname@example.org