The Office of the Ombudsperson receives complaints from homeowners and works with homeowners and Tarion employees to resolve issues.
In doing so, we pledge to treat all who deal with our office with dignity, respect and fairness by:
- Listening to all sides of the story
- Ensuring we understand the perspectives of all
- Considering all the evidence available
- Giving reasons for our decisions
When homeowners contact us with a complaint, we communicate with the homeowner to understand their concerns. obtain their permission to look into the matter. We assess the complaint to see what efforts have been made to resolve the problem, and provide advice and guidance to assist homeowners in resolving their concerns. We are an office of last resort and if the homeowner has not yet addressed their concern directly with Tarion, we will encourage them to do so. If the complaint is outside the jurisdiction of the Office, we will provide information to assist in resolving the complaint.
If homeowners have already followed Tarion process and feel they have been treated unfairly, we will try to resolve a complaint informally using a variety of conflict resolution techniques. These include file review, discussion with Tarion, negotiation, facilitation, shuttle diplomacy and mediation. This informal early resolution process is an opportunity to understand the complaint, examine if the homeowner has been treated fairly, and identify issues and opportunities to resolve the compliant.
In some cases, we may choose to investigate the complaint and issue a recommendation that ensures a fair resolution. A formal investigation may be started when the following criteria are met:
- The complaint is complex
- There are errors of fact
- The issues are systemic
- The Ombudsperson wants to examine root causes
If, at any time during the investigation, the complaint is resolved, either because the complaint is no longer disputed or new information has been provided, the parties can agree to settle the matter and we will close the complaint. However, the investigation may continue even after the individual complaint is closed if the Ombudsperson deems it necessary.
During an investigation, the Ombudsperson does not provide an opinion on possible outcomes and remains impartial throughout the process. At the end of an investigation, the Ombudsperson will write a report that outlines the complaint, the investigation process, the findings, the reasons for the findings and any recommendations.
When the Office of the Ombudsperson finds a complaint to be substantiated, we work with the appropriate Tarion department to determine a fair solution. In some cases, we may find it appropriate to make a recommendation.
Depending on the circumstances, the Ombudsperson may recommend that Tarion:
- Take action to address the individual complaint, such as improving communications related to an individual case, providing reasons for a decision or improving service.
- Review the file and act to reduce a delay, suspend or postpone an action, or reconsider or change a decision.
- Acknowledge an error and apologize
- Change a policy or practice to address systemic concerns.
The Ombudsperson Office strives to be responsive and timely in its work and has established service benchmarks. When homeowners initially contact us our goal is to respond within 24 hours. We strive to complete early resolution within two weeks of receipt of permission to access the file. Investigation can take up to 120 days, depending on the circumstances of the case. The Ombudsperson Office makes it a priority to keep complainants apprised of the status of their complaints.
The Office of the Ombudsperson promotes and protects fairness. To determine if a complainant has been treated fairly, we apply a series of questions related to communication, decision-making, and fair processes. The following list is not exhaustive, but provides examples of the criteria we use in these circumstances.
- Is public information about the decision process available and understandable?
- Are the rules upon which the decision was based clear and available?
- Do clients receive all the information they need?
- Are deadlines provided and published widely?
- Are complainants treated with respect in dealing with their concerns?
- Is the decision reasonable?
- Is the decision consistent with other decisions made in similar circumstances?
- Can the decision be rationally explained?
- Is the effect of the decision contrary to what was intended?
- Will the decision result in unfairness for others?
- Is the decision unjust or arbitrary?
- Does the decision impose inordinate and unnecessary obligations on any of the parties?
- Is the decision based on wrong facts?
- Is all relevant information considered in making the decision?
- Is adequate notice provided to individuals who may be affected by a decision?
- Are those affected by a decision given a chance to provide information and evidence to support their position?
- Are decisions made within a reasonable time?
- Are meaningful reasons given for decisions?
- Are the decision-makers unbiased?
- Are the parties aware from the beginning how the final decision will be made?
- If a mistake occurs, is it addressed in a timely and respectful manner?