Categories News

Bill aims to protect Ontario homeowners from scams which place liens on their home

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

It’s a relatively common interaction—typically an illegitimate company shows up at a homeowner’s door offering to sell or rent HVAC appliances. Usually without the homeowner’s knowledge, Notice of Security Interests (NOSI) are placed on their property, resulting in many senior victims.

This is a debt or lien that is placed on a home that must be repaid upon sale or refinancing.

For Linda Palmieri’s in-laws, it was back in 2015 when they bought a furnace and air conditioner unit by a company they believed to be reputable.

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

“This has gone on for six years. My in-laws, in the final stages of their life, have 12 liens on their home.”

She said her in-laws are “a shadow of themselves” as a result of the scam and is urging the government to not only pass legislation to ban NOSIs, but also to amend legislation to “wipe NOSIs from the books completely.”

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

The legislation would prevent NOSIs from being registered against a homeowner by a business when it finances or leases certain equipment.

The bill will not only ban NOSIs from being placed on appliances like furnaces, air conditioners or ventilation units, but it will also give homeowners the ability to apply for a lien to be removed once they notice it.

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

“These notices often register without the homeowners knowledge, become leans against someone’s property title, and allow these companies to pocket a chunk of someone’s property value for years and years,” NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan said

“A simple unit which costs hundreds of dollars becomes 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 instance, a homeowner was persuaded into installing 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 they received a loan agreement in the mail.

“I just about had a heart attack,” he said.

In Kitchener, Ian Craig had NOSIs totalling more than $150,000 that were placed without his knowledge. Two people were charged in connection with his case, with police alleging the suspects posed as consultants and were charging him consulting and legal fees as well.

Push for change to stop mortgage/NOSIs scammers

Dennis Crawford, a lawyer 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 home to secure a $200 water filter,” Crawford said at the time. “My sense is the needle has moved on this issue, and the government is taking it very seriously now.”

Doug Ford government consultation completed in 2023

The Ontario government launched consultations on NOSIs in the fall as part of a more comprehensive consumer protection bill. Specifically, they opened the floor to public input 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 hardworking Ontarians for their own financial gain,” the minister of public and business service delivery said at the time.

Topics included requirements to notify homeowner when a NOSI is registered, the types of goods or fixtures a company can registered a NOSI for, and restrictions on the duration of a NOSI.

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

“It was government Bill 142 that first addressed the abolition of NOSIs, and it was the parties on the opposite side that accepted my plea to support it, so we thank them for that. The legislation has passed,” he said.

“Stay tuned for action on eradicating NOSIs. I look forward to that.”

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’re seeing a considerable uptick over the past two years. Hundreds of thousands of dollars registered on title. Generally vulnerable senior citizens who are socially isolated and low income and unable to fight this in the normal channels,” he said.

“The only way to fix this problem is to eliminate NOSIs altogether, going forward and going back,” he said.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Jon Woodward