Following his application for a construction permit, a borough asked a citizen to disburse, over and above the cost of the permit, a significant amount to cover the construction costs for the driveway access requested by the citizen. The citizen paid the full amount required.

Upon completion of the work, however, the borough sent the citizen an invoice for several hundred dollars, representing the difference between the amount initially charged to the citizen, upon issuance of the permit, and the actual cost charged to the borough by the contractor, for the construction of this driveway access.

The citizen contested this additional invoice with his borough but he was told that the original amount paid was only an estimated deposit. The borough drew his attention to a notice appearing on the permit application which stated: Name of the person responsible to be reimbursed or billed. In the borough’s view, this notice confirmed that the citizen should have known that he could be later reimbursed or billed, depending upon the actual costs of the work carried out. The citizen contended that no one had informed him of either the existence or the significance of the said disclaimer. Therefore, the citizen sought assistance from the Ombudsman de Montréal.

After studying the file and making inquiries with the borough officials, the Ombudsman de Montréal concluded that the said notice was unclear for a person unaccustomed to city procedures and since it had been shown that no employee had explained the significance of this notice to the citizen, the Ombudsman de Montréal estimated that it was unfair to charge additional costs to the citizen at this time and Recommended that the invoice be cancelled.

As a preventive measure, the Ombudsman de Montréal further Recommended to the borough that they modify their form so as to include a clear notice informing citizens that the amount charged at the outset is only approximated and could, therefore, be adjusted later, either higher or lower, depending upon the actual costs of the work requested.

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