An Edmonton family says when they cancelled a job with a local contractor because of poor-quality work the company responded by placing a lien against their home for more than four times what they say they owe.

Kimberley Bewick and Jennifer Alabiso say say they can’t borrow any more money to make repairs or finish the job, and have been left with a yard full of debris.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,“ said Bewick, her eyes welling with tears.

“I want to throw up,” Alabiso added. “I get aches in my chest that feel horrible.”

They hired Rapid Roofing & Renovations in April 2013 to clear an ice dam from their roof and then re-shingle it for a contracted price of $14,600.

Initially satisfied with the work, they then hired the same company to remodel a bathroom and add an extension to the kitchen in their 80 year-old home.

Builder connected with special needs child, homeowner says

The couple has four children, two with special needs.

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Bewick said they felt assured by the company representative, Tom Handy, who appeared to bond with her 6 year-old son Julius, who has severe autism.

“Tom said ‘I have a grandson with autism and I know hard it can be to work around the needs of a child with special needs. And I’m going to make sure this has as little impact on him as possible,’” Bewick said.

“I’ve had a lot of negative experiences in the world with Julius from people because of his autism,” she said. “So when someone says they’re willing to do something with him in mind … that’s an incredible thing to hear.”

“He let Julius crawl on him and play with him. It was really lovely to see,” Bewick said.

Over the next six months, Alabiso and Bewick paid Rapid Roofing over $70,000.

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Poor work, “grossly overcharged”, home inspector says

By late 2013, Alabiso and Bewick said the ice-damming they had hired Rapid Roofing & Renovations to fix came back worse than ever, pouring water into Julius’ room.

They told the company they wanted the roof and water damage fixed before the rest of the renovations were finished.

The couple say they unsuccessfully tried to convince company owner Dan Cote to take responsibility for the damage caused by the new ice dam.

Alabiso and Bewick hired an independent inspector to assess the roof and the renovations.

In his report, licensed home inspector Allan Holben said the only remedy for ice-damming is repairing attic and roof ventilation.

He went on to say that Rapid Roofing had replaced the shingles but that “the remedy used to fix was not correct for ice-damming, the ice damming continued this year”

In reviewing the roofing and renovation work Holben reported that the quality of the work was “less than acceptable and grossly overcharged.”

Holben also said the kitchen extension had been significantly altered from the original drawings because roof trusses had been built to the wrong size.

He also questioned whether the addition’s floor could support the new weight of the modified roof but couldn’t reach a conclusion because there was no access built into the foundation.

Soon after receiving the report Alabiso and Bewick served notice to terminate the contract.

Rapid Roofing & Renovations responded by filing an affidavit for a builder’s lien, swearing the company was owed $107,000 for work done and yet to be completed, and materials supplied and yet to be supplied. The lien prevents the couple from selling their home or renewing their mortgage.

Company will “protect our interests”

Company owner Dan Cote would not agree to an interview with Go Public.

But in an email, the company said, “We do good work, sometimes there are problems. We will continue to work toward a solution.”

The email said the company would deal with the matter in court “to protect our interest, as we have over $70,000 in costs for work completed on a $107K project.”

Tom Handy also declined several interview requests by Go Public.

In an email, he said he had ceased to be a director of the company “sometime in 2012” and “stayed on only as general manager.”

Handy said he has since retired from the company.

Amount claimed in lien doesn’t add up, home inspector says

Alabiso and Bewick’s contracts with Rapid Roofing are $14,600 for the roof repair, and $81,000 for the renovation.

Alabiso and Bewick have already paid more than $70,000 of the $95,600 in the contracts, while Rapid Roofing is claiming it is still owed $107,000.

A lien is normally filed for the amount of work performed or materials supplied, according to Corbin Devlin, a lawyer who specializes in construction law.

He said a contractor can technically file a lien for more. But if a court finds the contract has been legally terminated the amount of the claim should be reduced to the amount of work completed and not paid.

Home inspector Allan Holben said the amount of money Rapid Roofing & Renovations is claiming in the lien doesn’t add up. He estimates the values of the work to date to be about $56,000.

“I’m shocked at the amount,“ Holben said. “He’s just gouging them again and he’s using the court system to help him do it. It’s shocking and disgusting.”

The lien will expire 180 days after it was registered unless Rapid Roofing & Renovations begins court actions to recover the money it says it is owed.

In the meantime, Bewick and Alabiso say they are stuck with a partly-built addition they aren’t sure is safe and can’t afford to fix.

“Unless we win a lottery I’m not sure how we’re ever going to recover from this financially,” Bewick said.

Now, she’s hoping to persuade some friends to help the family hire a dumpster to remove the construction debris they say has made their backyard unusable for Julius and his sister Imogen, who also has autism.

“I feel guilty” Alabiso said. “I thought we were making things better, and we made things worse.”