Repairs, Maintenance and Renovations
Safety Issues Around DIYs
From the CCI Review 2023/2024-1 August 2023 issue of the CCI London Chapter
In-home projects have gathered momentum over the past several years as thousands of working professionals and students remain at home to work. In doing so, they may engage in DIY projects to make a more comfortable and organized work space. No matter what the plan might be, owners are required to facilitate any changes by going through the proper process to get prior approval to proceed. It is every owners’ responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the unit, their tenants where the unit is leased. and the people who live on the property.
Do your homework
The corporation’s Board of Directors has the responsibility to approve any changes/ alterations in a unit. Where there are signs of building activity, directors should ensure that the process has been followed prior to the work proceeding. Where there is evidence of a renovation going to take place and where the project has not been approved in advance, the board IS authorized to put a stop to it (and in some cases, not approve) until the process has been followed.
During the planning stages of your renovations, there are many things to consider. Your advisors can assist you in the process.
Protect yourself from surprises during the planning stage
Significant renovations may not be covered by your current home insurance policy. Home insurance is designed to protect your home and its contents in case of the unexpected; however, every policy has limits. If you have a claim, you don’t want to find out your improvements aren’t covered.
For more information on insurance coverage for your renovation, talk to your Financial Advisor. And, when your renovation is finished, ask them to re - evaluate your home to ensure the replacement value is updated and officially documented.
Owners should ensure the renovation increases the home’s value. Consider three things before even starting the process:
- Market value. Will a major renovations put your home’s value above the market value in your neighbourhood? The value of your home may be limited if it’s surrounded by smaller, lesser value homes. Try not to price your home out of the market.
- Future buyers. Even if you’re not planning to sell soon, it’s wise to think of your project in terms of what most buyers would want. For example, eliminating a bedroom to expand another room may not appeal to every buyer, especially those with families.
- Return on investment. Some renovations add instant value, like updating kitchens and bathrooms, adding square footage, or changing carpet to hardwood floors.
If you decide to hire a contractor and/or project manager, find one you can trust. Ask friends to recommend top-notch contractors, or search for reputable contractors online, then narrow the list and set expectations with these 10 questions.
- Cost: Is your quote an estimate or fixed price, and what ’s the payment schedule?
- Supervision: Who will supervise the job site and how many hours a day/week will they be there?
- Permits: Who will get the permits and co-ordinate inspections?
- Protection: Do you have full liability insurance for people and materials? Beyond insurance, how will you protect my property (for example, if you’re adding an addition and it rains)?
- Timing: What’s your start-to-finish schedule, and when will I be needed on site?
- Communication: How will you communicate updates to me, and can I reach you after hours?
- Experience: How many years of experience do you have, or similar projects have you completed?
- Employees: Do you work with the same pool of subcontractors /construction workers on every project, or will there be anyone new?
- Savings: How can I save some money? Can I buy some supplies myself?
- Codes: Are you up-to-date on all current building codes, and how will you handle any violations/changes if the project doesn’t meet code (important for older homes)?
First and foremost, every owner, including those who lease their unit (where tenants must first get approval from the owner/landlord first), must request PRIOR approval from the Board of Directors (in writing) before proceeding with any changes/alterations. Corporations’ Declarations usually qualify the following with regards to within any unit: No outer boundary or partition wall within any unit shall be installed, moved, removed, extended or otherwise altered without the prior expressed written consent of the Board of Directors and the appropriate municipal permits.
Depending on the proposal, owners will be required to deliver an all inclusive plan of the scope of work, including sufficient specifications, plans, especially structural; permits as required from the municipal government and electrical permits so that the board can make an informed decision on approval or not. Renovations within a unit could have an impact on adjoining unit.
Once the approval process is in place in accordance with the Condominium Act and the Corporation’s governing documents; including appropriate description/diagram of the renovation, electrical and plumbing permits as required by law and registration on title to the unit, all at the cost to the owner requesting, the work can begin. Other suggestions, depending on the scope of the project, will include:
- Contact homeowners’ insurance provider with information on renovations as they are responsible to insure these changes/alterations in their homeowners’ policy. There are policies that have a clause that eliminate coverage protection during renovations so this discussion with them is important.
- Lenders may also need to be in the know about any renovations that may be taking place.
- Consider the value of a project manager who can help with productivity and success of a plan.
- Discuss electrical needs that may impact the current status quo of the unit with your licensed electrician.
- General Contractors are not licensed to do electrical work and they usually subcontract it. Verify any business subcontracted for electrical work has an ECRA/ESA licence number.
- Many unlicensed electrical contractors may offer their services at a lower rate, but consider the consequences. Their work has been found to be up to four times faultier than work done by licensed contractors.
- Insurance claims linked to work performed by an unlicensed contractor, may be denied by the insurance company
- Contractors must be licensed and have insurance and WSIB – protect yourselves from liability
- Contact neighbours relative to noise that may impact them.
It should be noted that prior to proceeding with the project, owners are required to have permits secured and financed for the specified plans prior to proceeding with the work. In London, for more information about projects that require a permit and how to apply for one, you can visit here: https://london.ca/living-london/building-renovating/buildingpermits.
Contact the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) for electrical permit information
Every household may have more family members online, watching TV and using appliances all at once and for longer periods of time. Renovations and repairs that involve any electrical work must meet the Ontario Electrical Safety Code to ensure building permits have been acquired where necessary and that the appropriate contractors are licensed, have insurance and WSIB. The requirements are for your own safety as well as for others. It may be appropriate for owners to have the ESA insure there are appropriate electrical requirements.
The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA has a website everyone should be familiar with by the information they provide for safety in all types of circumstances. For example, The Homeowner Electrical Safety Handbook, Inside Your Home is a good read for all owners and boards to review prior to planning or approving a project.
Flash Notices that relate to warnings from the ESA on fire and shock hazards that have been issued; Product Recalls & Safety Alerts; Guidelines and Reports and Bulletins can be found here.
Let’s not forget “Buyer Beware”
There are things you should just leave to the proper experts that you trust.
Some problems are clear to see when you are going through a unit for a potential buy. You won’t see what is behind the walls and under flooring; however, leave no stone unturned in your search. As part of your review, electrical should be just one of those that may be missed. Don’t forget to hire a home inspector as well – they will hit the spots you don’t want to be climbing into – like the attic or crawl space.
AND, if you are BUYING A RENOVATED UNIT, caution is recommended – check out this website for tips that can make a difference to you: https://esasafe.com/home-renovation-buying-and-selling/buying-a-renovated-home/
“Move in ready” is not always a good thing. Before you buy, you should find out if there are any open electrical notifications on the property. These are outstanding notifications to correct any defects. By law, the buyer assumes responsibility for doing this. Have your lawyer make an Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) Search of Records a part of your purchase agreement. (Note there are fees associated with this search.)
Not following the law could put property Owners and Managers at risk. You might have insurance claims denied and you risk penalties or charges under the Ontario Electricity Act. You also compromise the safety of tenants and visitors in the building.
What is the purpose of the Ontario Electricity Act?
First and foremost, but not all inclusive, the purpose of this Act is to ensure the adequacy, safety, sustainability and reliability of electricity supply in Ontario through responsible planning and management of electricity resources, supply and demand.
You can view more of this Act here: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/98e15/v45
See more in the article Electrical Systems—Are You At Risk For A Fire?
Trish Kaplan, CCI (Hon’s) is the parttime Administrator of the Chapter; having served in the position from April 2003 to September 2010. She received the CCI Distinguished Service Award from CCI National in November 2006. Trish served as a director on the chapter board from 2010-2015 and was subsequently returned to the position of Administrator.
Trish is a condominium owner, served as a director in the corporation she resides in for a time and is a retired condominium manager.
Her experience in different areas of condominium continues to be a benefit to the chapter and its members.
DISCLAIMER, USE INFORMATION AT YOUR OWN RISK
This is solely a curation of materials. Not all of this information is created, provided or vetted by CCI. Some of the information is only applicable to certain provinces. CCI does not make any warranties about the reliability or accuracy of any information found in the materials on this website. The information is not updated to reflect changes in legislation or case law and therefore may not always be current and up-to-date. We suggest you seek professional advice with respect to your specific issues or regarding any questions that arise out of the material. We will not be liable for any losses or damages in connection with the use of any of the material found on the website.