The Office of the Ombudsperson receives complaints from homeowners and works with homeowners and Tarion employees to resolve fairness disputes.
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 and obtain their permission to look into the matter. We assess the fairness dispute to see what efforts have been made to resolve the problem, and we 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 and will provide contact information for the appropriate staff person. 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, our next step will be to conduct a fairness review. We will work as informally and quickly as possible to clarify issues, gather information and analyze possible resolutions.
If a full review is needed, we will examine all documentation and correspondence on file, read any expert reports and ensure that we have a thorough grasp on the situation. Once we understand the background, we will speak with Tarion staff to get their perspective, and we will request any additional information needed from either the homeowner or Tarion. When we have all the relevant information, we will make our fairness determination.
Once our determination is made, we convey the findings to both the homeowner and Tarion. This will be in written form and will outline our decision and the reasons for it. If we find that the homeowner has been treated unfairly, we will recommend action from Tarion to remedy the situation.
We will follow up with Tarion to ensure that recommendations are followed and remedial action taken.
There are some cases in which a fairness review is inadequate to fully understand the situation and a formal investigation is required. Some reasons for this might be:
- 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 dispute is resolved, 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.
While an investigation is ongoing, 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. This report may or may not be made public, at the Ombudsperson’s discretion.
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 one business day. We strive to complete fairness reviews within two weeks of receipt of permission to access the file. Investigation can take up to three months, depending on the circumstances of the case. If these timelines cannot be met, the Ombudsperson Office makes it a priority to keep homeowners apprised of the status of their complaints.
The Office of the Ombudsperson promotes and protects fairness. To determine the outcome of a fairness dispute, we apply a three part fairness test, looking at the aspects of process, decision making and communication. We ask a series of questions to help us make our findings. The following list is not exhaustive, but provides examples of the criteria we use:
- Was the homeowner given adequate information to understand the process?
- Was the homeowner given a chance to provide information and evidence to support their position?
- Was the decision made within a reasonable time?
- Were meaningful reasons given for decisions?
- Was the decision-maker unbiased?
- Did Tarion have the authority to make the decision?
- 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 based on wrong facts?
- Was all relevant information considered in making the decision?
- Did Tarion take the time to listen to the homeowner’s perspective?
- Did homeowners receive all the information they needed?
- Did Tarion respond to communication in a timely fashion?
- Were confidentiality limitations explained and was confidentiality respected?
- Was the homeowner treated with respect by Tarion?