A St. Paul, Alta. man, fighting for more than four years to get his new home fixed, is calling for tighter rules around builders and new home warranties.
Randy David’s Ready-to-Move (RTM) house was built in Saskatoon by McDiarmid Homes.
David paid $152,000 for the house, which included the cost of moving it to his rural property near St. Paul, 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, in October 2008.
"We were looking at getting a new house built, but it was very hard at the time. In 2008 everything was booming," said David.
"So we looked at getting an RTM. (McDiarmid) put on a good show. I put a deposit on the house hoping to be headache-free…and it’s been a nightmare ever since."
David said some of the siding on the building was damaged, several doors appeared to be crooked and didn’t seal, and the kitchen cabinets were poorly finished.
But bigger problems emerged with the coming of winter.
Ice turned to mould
"The first winter we were here, we were putting the kids’ clothes away, and I noticed it was pretty cold in the closets. So I pulled everything out and the entire base of the closet, especially the corner, was all frozen with ice and frost."
When the ice melted, black mould took its place.
David said the closets, which overhang the foundation, had no insulation under the floor.
He paid to have the cavity filled with insulating foam.
He said he can’t leave his children’s beds against exterior walls because frost forms along the drywall.
"I paid to have the house upgraded (with) two-by-eight walls and R50 insulation in the attic. The house is supposed to be very easy to heat and it’s not."
More worrying for David was a crack in the living room window. McDiarmid replaced the window, but the second window also cracked.
A 2010 report by a home inspector, licenced as a Level 3 Alberta safety codes officer, suggested the window may have been cracking under the weight of the roof above because of improper construction.
McDiarmid disagreed, but without dismantling the wall above the window, the cause of the cracking window remains in dispute.
David reported all the deficiencies to McDiarmid, but only some of the repairs were completed within the year specified in his sales contract.
Many of his concerns were disputed by the builder, or poorly repaired.
A shower door hangs on an angle, with a two-centimetre gap on the bottom at one end.
The triple pane kitchen window is drafty, and doors appear to have gaps between them and the frame.
More disgruntled homeowners
Go Public spoke to several other people who purchased McDiarmid RTM homes who complained of similar problems with quality and customer service.
Doris Dzuba of St Andrew, Man., said she sold her home at a loss after failing to get McDiarmid to repair cracked siding and poorly-fitting cupboards.
Elizabeth Hill of Prince Albert, Sask. said her home had a long list of problems, including iced-over windows and poorly-fitted doors, as well as smaller irritants such as missing mirrors and unfinished counters and closets.
Hill said McDiarmid addressed some, but not all, of the problems before the first year was up.
She said the company asked her to get estimates for the remaining repairs, but never responded after she submitted them.
Hill eventually paid to have some of the repairs made but said McDiarmid refused to reimburse her.
"They just put us off, basically put us off for months. In terms of customer service, there’s none."
McDiarmid Homes displays the Canadian Standards Association certification mark on its website, although it hasn't been a CSA member since November 2012.
A CSA spokesman told Go Public that McDiarmid has been told to stop using the stamp immediately.
Go Public made telephone and email requests to McDiarmid Homes for a response. A spokesperson called back to say company president Richard Hutchings "has no comment."
National Home Warranty of little help
Randy David thought having a home warranty would be like having a warranty on a car or truck.
But after failing to get satisfaction from the builder he said his experience with National Home Warranty (NHW) was little better.
When he called NHW, he was told to wait a full year to give McDiarmid the opportunity to make the repairs. But after that year he was told his file was closed, that the builder had completed the work.
With the help of a lawyer, David convinced NHW to reopen his claim. But he’s still fighting to get repairs made.
NHW sent a contractor to David’s home in late 2012. Based on the contractor’s report NHW disputed almost all of David’s complaints including the frosting walls and doors and the cracking window.
NHW did agree the crooked shower door could be fixed but said it would be months before the contractor would have time to do the work.
"There is no warranty," said David. "I haven’t had anything fixed yet. It’s not my problem that they can’t find a contractor to come here and fix my house. It’s been over four years. My house should be fixed."
National Home Warranty also declined to be interviewed.
Glenn Cooper, senior manager, public relations and social media for Aviva Canada, NHW’s underwriter, said in an email "there are many factors involved that determine the timeliness of claim resolution such as availability of trades people, their willingness to work with certain customers, availability of material, weather conditions suitable for the repairs and coordinating the repairs to occur at the same time for convenience of the homeowner."
Nonetheless, "we always honour the coverages under our warranty policies and our goal is to do so in an efficient and timely manner," he said.
After Go Public began calling NHW’s local and national office, Randy David received an offer from NHW, through his lawyer, to send a contractor from Edmonton to estimate the cost of repairs, and possibly offer a cash settlement.
He's calling on government to tighten up the rules around home builders.
"They should actually stop these contractors from being able to build and they should be forced to repair any...faulty work that they've done," he said. "If not...they should be put out of business. They shouldn't be allowed to build unless they can meet proper standards."