Keeping up to date: Lien limitations and electronic signatures

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Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ss_digitalsignature.png

By Clive Thurston

Special to Ontario Construction News

It is interesting how many things seem to fall by the wayside and are not picked up by some of the more sophisticated owners in the province.

Recently while assisting a few members two points came out that I thought had been dealt with sometime ago. The first deals with the Construction Act and legal time limitations

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic the province suspended limitations on payments and other deadlines this caused an unexpected problem in the construction industry as timelines involving release of holdback were suspended thus causing owners a problem as to whether or not they could protect themselves against future liens. Trades and contractors were then faced with the challenge of not being able to receive their holdback monies.

Thanks to the efforts of the Ontario General Contractors’ Association (OGCA) and the Construction and Design Alliance of Ontario (CDAO) representations were made to the government at all levels and the change was made so that those timelines came back in force and yet as recently as a few weeks ago an owner was still not sure that they can release holdback thinking that the suspension limitations were still in place. Seemingly not aware that the change had been made some time ago, contractors and trades are entitled to their holdback monies within the appropriate time periods either governed by the previous act or under the new Construction Act.

Another surprising call I got was in regard to electronic signatures. We are all aware now with bonding being available electronically and electronic submissions of tenders and prices are quite common and therefore the use of an electronic signature has become much more acceptable.

After some research, I confirmed this was changed under the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 available online from the province of Ontario. The Act recognized and allows for electronic signatures. That means they can be used for several types of documents, such as the submission of sub-trade price contracts, general contractors’ submissions to owners, and lately to notarize documents.

The OGCA has been providing this service to its members and many trades over the past few years and is now able to do this electronically. The process can be explained by contacting their office and they will provide the details on how to go about getting an electronic signature to notarize documents.

With all the changes that are occurring in our industry today it is important for all industry stakeholders including those submitting tenders to be aware of and maintain an up-to-date knowledge of the changes affecting our industry.

There will be challenges. The new Construction Act has brought about a new regime of payment and timelines this will take some getting used to but it is fairly well laid out by a number of manuals that can be accessed.

clive thurston
Clive Thurston

Laws are changing that will affect everything that we do from the environment to safety, therefore it is vital to keep up to date on what is happening. There are great sources of information out there many of the local construction associations as well as provincial associations are constantly updating information and making it available to all of their members so that they can stay informed.

Staying up to date means we avoid problems with the procurement of construction.

Clive Thurston is the OGCA’s former president.

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