NDP bill aims to protect Ontario homeowners from scams that place liens on their homes

Ontario’s opposition is proposing legislation that would prevent companies from placing liens on homes in exchange for renting heating or ventilation devices.

It’s a relatively common interaction: Typically, an illegitimate company shows up at the homeowner’s doorstep and offers to sell or rent HVAC appliances. Typically, without the owner’s knowledge, Notices of Security Interests (NOSI) are placed on their property, resulting in many major victims.

This is a debt or lien that is placed on a home and must be repaid at the time of sale or refinancing.

For Linda Palmieri’s in-laws, it was in 2015 when they purchased a heating and air conditioning unit from a company they believed had a good reputation.

“The sale of that initial contract, which included a NOSI clause in the very fine print of the contract, placed them on a fraud list where their names and identities have been traded, sold and essentially trafficked to other fraudulent companies.” . Palmieri told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.

“This has been going on for six years. “My in-laws, in the final stage of their lives, have 12 liens on their house.”

He said his in-laws are “a shadow of their former selves” as a result of the scam and is urging the government to not only pass legislation to ban NOSIs, but also amend legislation to “completely wipe NOSIs off the books.”

This is what the NDP hopes to achieve with a bill introduced Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation would prevent a company from registering NOSI against a property owner when it finances or leases certain equipment.

The bill will not only prohibit NOSI from being placed on appliances such as furnaces, air conditioners or ventilation units, but will also give homeowners the ability to request that a lien be removed once they notice it.

It would not cover fixed building materials such as windows and insulation, the NDP said.

“These notices are often recorded without the owners’ knowledge, become liens against someone’s property title, and allow these companies to pocket a portion of the value of someone’s property for years and years,” the MPP said. NDP Terence Kernaghan.

“A simple unit that costs hundreds of dollars turns into tens of thousands in many of these cases. Worse yet, homeowners don’t even find out about NOSIs until they refinance or sell.”

‘I was devastated’

CTV News has spoken to multiple victims of NOSI scams over the years. In one case, a homeowner was convinced to install a water softener and HEPA filter without knowing the price of the equipment.

The homeowner was told the paperwork would be sent at a later date, but then received a loan agreement in the mail.

“I almost had a heart attack,” he said.

In Kitchener, Ian Craig had NOSI totaling over $150,000 that was placed without his knowledge. Two people were charged in connection with his caseand police alleged that the suspects posed as consultants and also charged legal and consulting fees.

Dennis Crawford, an attorney with OntarioHVACscam.com, told CTV News Toronto last October that many people only find out they have a lien when they go to sell their home.

“I have a client in Kitchener who has a $13,000 lien on his house to secure a $200 water filter,” Crawford said at the time. “My feeling is that the needle has moved on this issue and the government is taking it very seriously now.”

Doug Ford government consultation to be completed in 2023

The Ontario government queries launched on NOSI in the fall as part of a more comprehensive consumer protection bill. Specifically, they opened the floor for public comment on ways to reduce harmful and inappropriate uses against unsuspecting consumers.

“Our government will not stand by and allow bad actors to take advantage of Ontario workers for their own financial gain,” Minister of Public and Business Service Delivery Todd McCarthy said at the time.

Topics included requirements for notifying the owner when a NOSI is registered, the types of property or fixtures for which a business can register a NOSI, and restrictions on the duration of a NOSI.

On Tuesday, McCarthy hinted that “there was more to come” on NOSIs.

“It was the government’s Bill 142 that first addressed the abolition of NOSI, and it was the parties on the opposite side that accepted my request to support it, so we thank them for that. The legislation is already approved,” he stated.

“Stay tuned for actions to eradicate NOSI. I am wishing it.”

Greg Weedon, a real estate litigation lawyer in Toronto, said the NDP bill was a step forward, but given the widespread misuse of NOSIs, a better solution would be to eliminate them entirely.

“We are seeing a considerable increase in the last two years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars registered in property titles. They are generally vulnerable, socially isolated, low-income elderly people who cannot fight this through normal channels,” he said.

“The only way to solve this problem is to eliminate NOSI completely, moving forward and backward,” he said.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Jon Woodward

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