You have bought a custom-built house or a condo and you wish to follow the construction step by step. It is legitimate, desirable and even possible legally. La Garantie construction résidentielle (GCR) also protects you in case of any setback.
Article 2117 of the Code of civil law oversees site visits. It reads as follow: "At any time during the construction or renovation of an immovable, the client, provided he does not interfere with the work, may examine the progress of the work, the quality of the materials used and of the work performed, and the statement of expenses incurred so far."
"As long as the new house or condo is not notarized, the contractor remains the owner of the real estate, affirms Marie-Claude Dufour, spokesperson of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec. However, to keep a bond of trust with the buyer, the contractor should allow the under construction unit to be visitable."
You can therefore visit and inspect your future house. Jean Dion, Secretary General of the Association des consommateurs pour la qualité dans la construction (ACQC) even recommend this inspection. If one buys a $ 200,000 to $ 400,000 house it is worth it to spend $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 for the inspection. It will prevent having to deal with issues later on that are hard to resolve. The inspection is always worth it especially when the building is more complex, and that even if you need the services of an engineer who has a better understanding of the way it works.”The inspection is usually done during the office's business hours and only when the construction site is not dangerous. This is basically what the pre-delivery inspection is all about." It can be done by a building inspector, an architect, an engineer or a professional technologist, says Guy Giasson, communications manager at ACQC. It is however recommended to deal with members of a professional organization since they offer a better protection. If one choses to hire a building inspector, it is necessary to be at least sure that he is a member of an association such as the Association des inspecteurs en bâtiment du Québec (AIBQ). He must also own a professional liability insurance." Jean-François Nadeau, a building inspector, is covered by this type of insurance.” The customer can use it if he judges that I made a mistake or if I have overlooked something during my inspection."
However, there are some risks when dealing with a building inspector. The ACQC details these risks on its website. Among other things: "Nothing ensures the consumer that the inspector has the proper qualifications. No standard training is required for this job: anybody can pretend to be a building inspector. Even if most inspector groups request a minimum of qualification, this certification is usually granted only after a process that may vary.
We must underline the differences between the services that are offered from one inspector to another. No norms or basic requirements regulate what the agreements for technical services should look like or how the inspection reports should be written. Same thing with the professional liability insurance: an inspector is covered as long as he is assured. If an inspector stops working, the assurance usually stops its coverage. This coverage remains a major flaw since it is known that building defects sometimes appear only years after the purchase. Only inspectors that are members of a professional order in the Province of Quebec offer an acceptable insurance coverage for the consumers since their work remains covered even if they stop working."
As part of the GCR, there will be inspections during construction, but "for now these inspections will probably be done the same way that they used to, when the old warranty plan was in effect, even though the inspections used to be scarce and not very well done", says Jean Dion. Mr. Dion recommends, for more security, to hire a professional.
To help buyers, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec offers, on its website, two verification lists to be certain that nothing is missed during an inspection. The first list is for buildings that are co-owned (i.e. condominiums) and for the private portion of co-owned buildings. The second list allows to verify the state of the co-owned common areas. Once both lists are filled (if it is a condominium), they must be signed and kept safely. The promoter will then have to complete or correct the works indicated on one or both lists.
What to be on the lookout for?
Make sure that all the points signed for in the contract or discussed are there. In short, that everything is going according to the construction plans that you have approved. Also, examine that the work quality is the same than in the model house (or condo) that you have visited previously and that is in the same price range.
The good timing to visit the construction site
The structure, plumbing, electricity, and heating are done? The gypsum panels are not yet screwed to the walls and to the roof? This is the perfect timing to get an update on the status of the work in progress. A good timing since all the important work is completed and is still visible. It is much easier and cheaper to make the necessary corrections now, before the walls are closed and ready for finishing.
The finishing step is also a good time to visit the construction site again. During the finishing step, it is better to visit the site twice. The first visit should be during the finishing of the walls an of the ceiling. It is particularly important to examine the drywall finishing to be certain that the gypsum panel joints are invisible. The second visit should be done during the installation of the woodwork and of the plaster mouldings, if applicable. This time, it is important to check if the finishing elements are well integrated to the walls and ceiling.
The protections of the warranty plan
During construction, the promoter may legally ask you for payments. But don't worry. If the promoter is in difficulty and is unable to complete the project, please note that since January 2015 your payments are guaranteed by the GCR for up to $ 50,000.
It is also possible that the delivery date of a house or condo under construction will be delayed. This can cause major inconveniences to the buyer. However, in such a case, the carrying costs of the move and of the storage of your possessions, including housing and meals, are covered under the GCR. These fees are also covered in the following case: you cannot take possession of your building or condo on the agreed date, because the administrator (that has replaced the promoter as construction manager), must complete the work that the contractor has left unfinished.
For more information, please read the Warranty Plan booklet.