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Home renovation basics: liens, permits and warranties

A home renovation not only drastically alters the look and feel of your home, but also greatly increase its value. It comes as no surprise that renovating your home can be an exciting time with obvious benefits, but there are a lot of things that you need to be aware of before you get started.

As a property owner you are ultimately responsible for any construction project on your land and today’s article will put you in the best possible position to ensure your renovations run smoothly.

With that in mind, the words of the day are permits, warranties, and liens.

Let’s take a closer look at what these mean for you and your home renovation project.


A building permit is the go-ahead you must receive from the city before starting any extensive renovation project.

The City of Toronto provides an exhaustive list of the projects that do and do not require a permit to carry out, but generally speaking a permit is required for any form of material or structural alteration. This can include anything from changes to your roof, removing a wall or modifying your HVAC.

The permit process will include municipal staff reviewing your building plans for compliance to laws, codes and bylaws.

If you attempt to carry on a renovation without a permit, it won’t end well.

Uninsured damage, legal action and projects being cancelled and reversed are among some of the consequences you could face if caught.


One of the tell-tale signs of a renovation waiting to go wrong is a lack of a written warranty included as part of the project contract.

The warranty should clearly indicate any commitments the contractor has made regarding the workmanship and how long it is covered for.

Contractors will also inevitably use materials that are covered by manufacturer warranty ( when installed by a licensed professional, hence why ensuring proper licensing is so important)  and you should be fully aware, and in possession of, those documents.

As a general guideline, a 1-2 year warranty for the work completed with the structural components of the project on a 5-10 year warranty is commonplace.

If you have any inclination the contractor may not be reliable, look into whether or not they have operated under a different name in the past, which may indicate poorly completed jobs or legal issues.


Most people would have heard about permits or warranties, but not everybody knows what a lien is.

Liens arise from the Construction Lien Act, which was essentially put into place to protect contractors and ensure they are paid for the work done.

As part of this act, homeowners are to holdback 10% of each payment to their contractor, which is withheld until after the great majority of the work is done.

If a contractor (or  even a subcontractor) claims not to have been paid, they have the ability to register what is known as a “construction lien” against the property where their work was completed.

Although you are only liable for the amount that you withheld under the act, if you receive a Notice of Claim For Lien Under The Construction Lien Act, seeking legal advice is your only recourse.

It All Comes Down To The Contractor

Permits, warranties and liens are the three words that all homeowners, and especially first time renovators, should be intimately aware of before they have any work done.

This may seem daunting, but there is a silver lining. When you work with a truly reputable contractor, the likes of which you will find on the directory, you will have to worry about those three words quite a bit less.


Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

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