Can Contractors Change Your Design Without Consent?

A contractor or renovator makes substantial design changes without home owner consent. Is that even legal?

Your new or renovated home may be your dream project, but if it doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you could sue or withhold payment. Construction or home renovation contracts are legally binding documents, and under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, all contracts over $50 with general contractors have to be in writing.

As they say, the devil is in the details.

What’s in Your Contract?

Signing a new build home or home renovation contract is tricky business. 

Adding changes without home owner consent can violate the terms you agreed to. It may even void the contract. Unless you give written consent, your contractor or home renovator is only authorized to perform the actual services in your contract. That means, generally speaking, you and your contractor must honour the contract exactly as signed. 

Or do you?

Can a buyer back out of a contract before closing in Ontario?  

Why Overlooking Small Details Can Cost You 

Frequently overlooked terms or conditions in legally binding agreements can give contractors room to maneuver. That’s why Axess Law recommends having a real estate lawyer review your contract. 

Your new home build or renovation contract should include all the basics:

  • your contractor’s business name, number, and legal address
  • drawings and building specifications
  • how changes will be made, such as through signed change orders
  • services your contractor will perform, such as obtaining building permits, and hiring, supervising, and paying trades
  • expected start dates
  • substantial and final completion dates — define what substantial means, such as 85% of the work is complete
  • pre-work deposits — 10% to 15% is standard
  • estimated final prices for goods and services
  • when payments are due, such as after the foundation is complete
  • any warranties or guarantees the contractor will provide
  • who’s responsible for insurance — find registered insurance agents in Ontario 
  • and how you will resolve disputes.

Changing your new home contract terms. 

Approving Change Orders

When a contractor makes changes without home owner consent, having a written agreement allows you to go back to your original contract. Your contract may need revising to include an amendment about when and how change orders are made. 

What are change orders? They’re mini contracts that empower you or your contractor to revise the design, substitute materials, or add finishes you agree to in advance. They ensure you and your contractor are on board, and help to prevent the unexpected expenses and worry changes without home owner consent can cause. Read about making changes to your construction project. 

What to do if new construction is not ready by closing. 

Remedies for Changes Without Home Owner Consent

Your home renovation or build is going along swimmingly when suddenly, to your distress, you discover your contractor made changes without home owner consent. Now what do you do?

How you resolve this contractual dispute could determine what it costs you — in grey hairs, legal bills, and added construction expenses. Resolving complaints yourself, without calling a lawyer, is optimal. 

  1. Talk to your contractor or their business agent about how the end result differs from your expectations. 
  2. Be specific. Point out what’s in your contract, and why the product is unsatisfactory.
  3. Discuss options, like redoing changes without home owner consent, or compensating you to hire someone else to fix it.
  4. Ask third-party warranty programs or contractor after-sales service representatives for help resolving your concerns.

If a contractor threatens you with legal action or a construction lien after making changes without home owner consent, contact a real estate lawyer, or ask the Canadian Home Builders’ Association for assistance.

Facts about the hidden costs of buying a home. 

Before You Pay a Home Builder or Renovator 

Finally, before you pay a contractor who made changes without home owner consent, review what your contract says about the final price. If your bill exceeds the estimated price by more than 10%, it’s time to dispute the invoice. Axess Law’s licensed real estate lawyers can negotiate to get a construction lien off your property title, or refer you to trusted legal partners for advice on pursuing a contractor through mediation or in court.  

Buying a new home from a builder in Ontario. 

Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Axess Law reviews your agreement of purchase and sale for new build homes, or home renovation contract, for terms and conditions you may have overlooked. We advise if your contract gives you options to exercise your buyer’s right to cancel, or makes it possible for your contractor to make changes without home owner consent.

What to know before you buy a preconstruction condo

If a contract for renovations you have signed or are planning to make needs amendments, we refer you to lawyers who can negotiate with your contractor. When a contractor is hassling you for payment, our real estate lawyers in Ottawa and Greater Toronto Area can search the title to your property for construction liens or other financial charges, or refer you to our trusted legal partners for advice.

If the deal is already done, Axess Law’s professional real estate lawyers answer your questions about can a buyer back out of a purchase agreement in Ontario, or what happens to the deposit when buying a house? Just ask us. 

Affordable Real Estate Lawyers, Anywhere You Are 

Access lawyers for less in Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or anywhere in Ontario  when you buy, sell, or transfer property. Axess Law’s flat fee real estate lawyers are affordable, and our rates are all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. Your final invoice includes no surprises or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it. 

Hire a real estate attorney for new construction.

Book Online Appointments or Call Us Today

Our virtual real estate lawyers go online with you anywhere in Ontario via remote video conference. Arrange day or evening appointments, 7 days a week, by video conference or in person by dialing our 647-479-0118 lawyer line (toll free to 1-877-402-4207). You can book appointments online in minutes by using our easy web booking form.

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