A Mississauga developer charged a buyer an extra $500K. Now its licence has been pulled
Move comes after province said it would crack down on developers for charging higher prices
Ontario's Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA) has revoked a Mississauga-based developer's licence to build or sell homes in the province after it says the company tried to charge a buyer significantly more for a home than was contractually agreed upon.
It's the first time a home builder has received the regulator's most serious punishment for increasing a price since CBC Toronto reported last March that the Doug Ford government planned to crack down on the practice.
The move comes after Pinetree Developments Inc. demanded a buyer pay more than half a million dollars extra for a home in Mississauga than was contractually agreed to, according to HCRA notices of proposal to revoke the licence. When the buyer refused, the company listed the home online, the HCRA documents say.
But that wasn't the only issue.
An HCRA inspection that began in December 2022 found falsified documents were used to obtain building permits, the developer failed to enrol homes in the provincial warranty plan and that there was a lack of explanation when the HCRA came inquiring about the increase in price.
"Any one of these actions would be cause for concern. Together they show a company unfit for a licence," said Wendy Moir, the HCRA's chief executive officer and registrar, in a news release.
Once notified that its licence would be revoked, the developer had an opportunity to appeal but did not, Moir said, meaning the revocation became automatic and immediate.
A phone number listed for Pinetree in the HCRA's registry is disconnected, and an email sent to an email address listed for Pinetree returned a message saying it couldn't be delivered. An additional request for comment sent to an email address listed on the company's website received no response. A lawyer who represented the developer in a previous civil suit also did not respond to an email.
'Unethical developers on notice,' says province
In an interview, Moir said in recent years, there has been similar activity from other developers, where a price is increased after a contract is signed.
"Some of [this] has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and all sorts of increasing construction costs," she said. "But that really doesn't mean that developers don't have to act within the law and treat their purchasers ethically and fairly."
The province sees the pulling of Pinetree's licence as a win, according to a spokesperson for Kaleed Rasheed, the minister of public and business service delivery.
"We have put unethical developers on notice and made sure bad builders have no place in our province," Colin Blachar said in an email.
NDP says HCRA needs to take job seriously
But NDP housing critic Jessica Bell said there's more to be done.
"The Home Construction Regulatory Authority has not taken its job seriously and properly and quickly investigated developers who are not doing the right thing," Bell said in an interview.
She said people filing complaints with the HCRA have often spent their life savings in pursuit of home ownership.
"These people are stressed, they're furious, their lives have been turned upside down. They just want their home built," she said.
Barbara Captijn, a consumer advocate, also said the regulator needs to do more to build consumer trust.
"From the outside looking in, I think that they are not being transparent enough to the public to show that they are regulating a very powerful industry," she said.
Moir said the regulator understands that those who file complaints are looking for a quick resolution, but the process takes time.
"When you're talking about something as serious as this, it's really important that we get it right. Frankly, if we don't get it right, we could lose on appeal," she said.
Moir added that the regulator takes every complaint seriously.
"We really want to make a difference and protect consumers and crack down on bad builders," she said.
When it comes to transparency, a different spokesperson for the regulator said everything the HCRA can disclose is available publicly on its website, while additional details can be found in its business plan and annual reports.