When the Homeowner Protection Act (HPA) regulations came into effect on July 1, 1999, owner-builders were permitted to be exempt from licensing and home warranty insurance requirements provided that they built a detached, self-contained dwelling for their own personal use not more than once every 18 months. Owner-builders who sold their home within 10 years of completion were required to provide prospective purchasers with an Owner-Builder Declaration and Disclosure Notice identifying that the builder was not licensed and was not providing a policy of home warranty insurance; however a 10-year statutory warranty would apply, giving the purchaser some rights against the owner-builder should defects occur during the 10-year period.
There was a sizeable abuse of this owner-builder exemption, involving either an owner who was not actually Owner-builders must occupy the new home themselves for at least a year after obtaining an occupancy permit before renting or selling. building or managing the construction of the home himself or herself or an unlicensed builder who was trying to avoid meeting the requirements of licensing and the cost to provide 2-5-10- year home warranty insurance for the home buyer.
As of November 19, 2007, changes to the HPA and Regulation regarding owner-built homes enhanced protection for homebuyers, including the following changes:
- Individuals planning to build a new home for their personal use are required to meet stricter eligibility requirements, pay a fee, and obtain an Owner- Builder Authorization from the HPO prior to commencing construction of the home.
- Owner-builders must occupy the new home themselves for at least one year after obtaining an occupancy permit and are not permitted to sell or rent the new home during that one-year period. The owner-builder is also not permitted to sell a new home during construction ‘‘as is’’ without permission from the HPO.
- Owner-builders who sell their home within the first 10 years after obtaining an occupancy permit are obligated to subsequent purchasers for defects in the new home during that 10-year period. The new legislation clarifies that an owner-builder’s obligations under the statutory warranty are similar to obligations of licensed residential builders under a policy of home warranty insurance. That is, 2 years for material and labour, 5 years for defects in the building envelope and 10 years for structural defects. The statutory warranty enables subsequent purchasers to sue the owner-builder for defects as set out on the statutory warranty. There are some reasonable exceptions to the statutory warranty (for example, defects caused by someone other than the builder, natural disasters) and these are set out in detail in the Regulation.
Licensees acting for either an owner-builder or a potential purchaser can check the HPO’s New Homes Registry (lims.hpo.bc.ca/prs/NewHomes/) to determine whether a new home built under an Owner-Builder Authorization can be legally sold as having met the occupancy requirement.
Buyers should be aware that the statutory warranty from an owner-builder is only as good as the owner-builder’s ability to pay and/or their ability to rectify the defects of the home. Factors such as ongoing financial stability, continued local presence and an owner-builder’s willingness to fulfill his or her obligations, may affect the buyer’s ability to seek recourse for these defects. Licensees acting for buyers of such homes should advise buyers to consider these issues in making their purchase decision.
Owner-Builder Disclosure Notice
Owner-builders who built their home prior to November 19, 2007 must continue to provide prospective purchasers with the old-form Owner-Builder Declaration and Disclosure Notice within the first 10 years after occupancy.
Owner-builders building under an Owner-Builder Authorization (after November 19, 2007) are required to provide an Owner-Builder Disclosure Notice, obtained from the HPO, to prospective purchasers within the first 10 years after occupancy. The owner-builder must advise the HPO of the occupancy date and the HPO does not release the Disclosure Notice until the one-year occupancy requirement has been verified. Subsequent purchasers are also required to provide the Disclosure Notice if they sell the home within the 10-year period. The Disclosure Notice will state that the home was built under an Owner-Builder Authorization, when the 10-year period started, and whether or not there is a voluntary policy of home warranty insurance in place for the home.
NOTE: A survey of owner-builders conducted in 2007 found that the majority of purchasers of owner-built homes did not receive a disclosure notice and did not know whether or not their home had home warranty insurance. Not providing a disclosure notice is an offence under the legislation and, thanks to stronger compliance tools now available to the HPO, the requirement to provide the disclosure notice will receive increased attention.