Homeowner says builder next door caused thousands in damage
Conflict will increase with demand for infill housing, former councillor says
A homeowner in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood has been trying for more than nine months to get a builder to repair what he says is thousands of dollars in damage caused by the company’s work next door.
Bill Shotyk says the builder, ACC Developments, excavated a large hole on the property next to his home on 85th Avenue near 98th Street in October 2013.
Soon after, Shotyk says, the fence between the properties began collapsing and the sidewalk along his home’s east wall sank 20 centimetres, cracked and slid toward the hole.
Despite what he says is an obvious cause of the damage, Shotyk says the builder will not commit in writing to making the repairs, which he estimates will cost at least $10,000.
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“We can see what has happened. We know why it’s happened,” Shotyk said. “So what I would like is for my property to be restored to the condition it was in before all this happened next door.”
ACC Development says it needs proof it’s responsible for the damage before it will make any repairs.
Owner wants promise of repair in writing
Shotyk claims that in January 2014 ACC Development gave him verbal promises it would repair any damage it may have caused.
Two days later, he sent the company a follow-up letter by registered mail, with “before” and “after” pictures of his property, and asked for a written commitment the repairs would be made.
“As you know verba volant, scripta manent — words fly away, but words on paper stay forever,” Shotyk said.
ACC says it never received the photos.
In April, after getting no response from ACC Developments to his letter, Shotyk had his lawyer write the company requesting that the promise of repairs be put in writing.
The company wrote back offering “to meet and resolve any issues,” but Shotyk said despite that meeting they failed to come to a final agreement.
Shotyk said that given the slow pace of construction next door, he is concerned the builder will never make the repairs.
'I’m a very patient, tolerant guy,' homeowner says
“I’ve done my very best to be patient. I’m a very patient guy. I’m a very tolerant guy,“ Shotyk said.
“I try to be a good neighbour. When they couldn’t start their generator in winter because it was minus 40, I let them plug into my kitchen. I’ve had to live with metal falling over here, the metal on my roof, the screws, the garbage.
“I’ve never complained about any of that,” Shotyk said.
“I simply asked ACC Development to commit — in writing — to restoring my property to its original condition.”
Shotyk said his patience ran out in the summer, seven months after the builder dug the hole next door.
He complained to the Canadian Homebuilders’ Association, of which ACC Developments is a member, as well as Alberta Municipal Affairs, his MLA, his city councillor and the City itself, with no results.
“They said there’s nothing they can do,” he said. “And that’s been surprising and disappointing.”
“I just moved back to Canada after 20 years in Germany and Switzerland. To be honest I didn’t think this is how we did things in Canada.”
Shotyk’s insurance company has now told him his policy may not provide coverage for the damage.
He’s filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
Builder will repair damage 'if it’s our fault'
“If it’s our fault then we’ll do it,” Bhogal said.
“I don’t know why he don’t believe in us or something. I’m not that kind of guy.”
Bhogal said he would be replacing the fence anyway because it was on his property and would repair Shotyk’s sidewalk once the house is finished and he begins landscaping.
“It’s not a big issue, not a big deal,” he said. “If my guys are pouring that sidewalk, he can pour that side too.”
He said he expected the house to be finished in four to six weeks.
Two months later, the house is not finished and Shotyk is still waiting for the repairs to begin.
Bhogal said this week he wanted proof from Shotyk that ACC had damaged his property.
Bhogal said, apart from the “before and after” photos, he would require an engineer’s report proving the excavation was responsible. He said he would pay for that report, provided Shotyk’s photos were convincing and the engineer’s report didn’t cost more than $500.
However, Bhogal said, he’s leaving the case to his insurance company to solve.
“That’s why we have insurance, because of our protection,” he said. “If we’ve done something wrong then it’s the insurance company who takes responsibility.”
Bhogal said if his insurance company decided he was responsible but wouldn’t pay, then he would hire an engineer.
He said, either way, he doesn’t believe Shotyk’s sidewalk will be repaired before winter.
City has no powers to order repairs
Despite being a promoter of infill housing construction, the City of Edmonton has no power to order ACC Development to repair Shotyk’s property.
“Unfortunately, we can’t,” said Gail Hickmore with the City’s Development and Zoning Services department.
Hickmore said the City can provide mediation services, but disputes like Shotyk’s are uncommon.
“What he needs to do is work with the builder and see if he’s willing to fix it, and if not, he would have to take legal action,” Hickmore said.
'High time' homeowners had protection, former councillor says
“Court is the last place you want to go,” said Allan Bolstad, executive director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and a city councillor from 1992 to 2004.
Bolstad said more conflicts are inevitable, given the push to revitalize Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods.
He suggests builders be required to post a bond or carry insurance to pay for repairs in the event of a dispute.
“It’s high time something was in place,” Bolstad said.
“It’s time to make sure people have some protection so they can live as good neighbours in the future, and not get off a really bad start if something happens in construction that poisons relations for decades to come,” he said.
Shotyk wants his foundation inspected to make sure it hasn’t been damaged too, and he is hoping that by Going Public he will prompt Bhogal to commit in writing to make the repairs.
“I don’t think I’m being unreasonable,” he said.