As published in the Winter 2012 edition of CondoVoice Magazine by James M. Russell.
Game Changers - An Interview with Howard Bogach
Recently, CCI-T Vice President, Mario Deo had the opportunity to sit down with Howard Bogash, the CEO of Tarion to chat about the role and future direction of Tarion. The following pages include an edited and condensed version of their conversation.
MARIO: Good morning Mr. Bogach. Could you give us a little background about Tarion?
HB: Tarion is a consumer protection organisation. We were created some thirty-six years ago when the market was a little haywire. We were given the task of making sure that there was a balance of things so that consumers were protected. The builders were supportive because good builders want to make sure that those people who are playing outside the rules are dealt with since it damages other builders’ reputations along the way. So there has always been this common interest of protecting the consumer. We find that sometimes the playing field isn’t totally level because homebuilders are in that business every single day and homeowners are not. Homeowners need to understand that there are resources they can count on, and Tarion is one of those resources.
MARIO: What has been your greatest challenge since you have become President and CEO of Tarion?
HB: I think the greatest challenge for me has been to understand all the aspects of the industry, to understand the complexities of Tarion, and to understand the complexities of its legislation. This is probably the most rewarding role I have ever had, because I help people fulfill their dreams of buying a properly-built home, and that’s a nice thing to be able to say.
MARIO: We have noticed a positive change in Tarion since you became President and CEO. Can you tell us how this was accomplished?
HB: It’s nice to get positive feedback. I see myself as the conductor of a great symphony. I work with some really, terrific people. I come from a credit union background so when I took on the job I had to learn about how we provide our warranty, how we communicate with our stakeholders, and how we communicate with homeowners. And, just as importantly, how do we take a very complicated process of providing a statutory warranty and make it usable both from a homeowner’s perspective and from a builder’s perspective so that it makes sense along the way? We really want to make the process better for all our stakeholders. Being a consumer protection organisation, we strive to maintain a program that is in the best interests of consumers and builders. If you have unhappy consumers, you, as a builder, don’t have much of a business. And if there are builders doing things that are unethical then Tarion and builders alike want to get them out of the industry because it doesn’t help the builders who are playing by the rules.
We deal with half a million homes under warranty at any one time, but to the home buyer that house or condominium is not just a home – it’s the largest purchase they are going to make and the fulfilment of their dream. Ninety-nine percent of the time things go really well but when they don’t, the homeowner is wondering ‘Why me? Why did things go wrong in my home? ” When the homeowner gets to Tarion they are further aggravated by the process, which requires the homeowner to fill out forms then wait a period of time.
One of the most significant changes has been adding a public consultation process as part of our policy development process. We started doing this in 2010 to make sure that stakeholders have more of a voice. After Tarion reached out to consumers and builders through this process, both groups told us that there needed to be an improvement in the time frames for resolving condominium issues, so we found processes that are fair, reasonable and accomplish the goal of moving the process along.
MARIO: The improvements to Bulletin 19 (Quality review during construction), introduction of Bulletin 49 (common elements claim process) and the introduction of the Common Element Construction Performance Guidelines are all huge improvements that will provide a better experience for new Condominiums and we thank you on behalf of our constituents. What motivated Tarion to introduce these improvements in such a short period of time?
HB: I think that these processes had been thought about for a long period of time. We know there are frustrations. There are frustrations from our side, frustrations for consumers, and frustrations for builders. There is a great opportunity for us to try and resolve these issues. It is very, very important to us that whenever we make a change we take it back to all the industry players and consumer groups in an effort to get everyone’s perspective so that we’ve captured all the pitfalls before we move something forward. This is done through our public consultation process before we make policy changes. There are times that we want to move things forward even faster but we want to make sure that each and every one of our key stakeholders has a say in this. From those consultations came Builder Bulletin 19, which provides more structure to the Field Review Consultants reporting requirements, and Builder Bulletin 49, which introduced a formal process for making common element warranty claims.
We are always open to new ideas that will help us better fulfill our consumer protection role, and often those opportunities come to light as a result of our ongoing consultations with our stakeholders. We are in a good position to facilitate discussion because we are able to hear different perspectives, then figure out how to bridge the gaps.
MARIO: Can you tell us how the Tarion board works and how they are appointed?
HB: Our Board is made up of seventeen people. Five are appointed by the Province. Currently, the Honourable Margarett Best, Ontario’s Minister of Consumer Services makes the appointments on behalf of the Province. She looks for people who have consumer interest backgrounds. A further eight of our Board members are selected through the Ontario Home Builders’ Association. They go through a comprehensive selection process, which includes non-builder representatives screening the candidates to see if they are suitable to sit on our Board of Directors. We also have two independent members. Right now, both of those independent members possess a strong financial background. Peter Oakes is an independent chartered accountant and Lea Ray is the CFO at a large organisation and also on the WSIB (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board). So we want to make sure that we have the ability to add special skills when we need them along the way. The President of the OHBA sits as a nonvoting member of the Board, and even though I don’t vote on issues, I am technically a Board member. I am very fortunate to have Harry Herskowitz as the Chair. Harry comes to that role with tremendous experience in the condominium market and tremendous sense of justice and fairness. Having people like that who I report to makes it easy to have a balanced, stakeholder-driven organisation that reaches out and listens, and tries to create a fair environment. I think that a lot of credit for Tarion’s successes goes to our Board of Directors.
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