A Winnipeg man says he's on his own to fix extensive damage to his home caused by city-owned trees, as officials are claiming zero responsibility.
The roots of eight mature trees along a city boulevard are compromising the foundation of Greg McVicker's house in Transcona and causing the building to sink by nearly 13 centimetres in the last few months.
The home appeared to be in worse shape Monday afternoon than it was when McVicker spoke to CBC News earlier this month.
"I know I had said it was an absolute nightmare. Now it's beyond that," he said.
"It's to the point now where I just want to grab the kids, get what we can and get out before it completely comes in."
His home has been cracking and heaving as it slowly collapses, with walls pulling away from floors and the ceiling.
"It's gotten so bad that you can actually see daylight coming through the basement wall," he said.
City writes back
McVicker had engineers assess the situation, and their report identified the trees as a factor.
But several months after McVicker filed a damage claim with the city, officials wrote him back to say they are not assuming any responsibility.
"The trees planted on the boulevard along the east and south sides around your property are species which are indigenous to Winnipeg and can be found on any boulevard," the city's letter to McVicker states in part.
"It would be unreasonable to expect the City of Winnipeg to be aware of every tree that has the potential to draw moisture from the soil around or near a foundation which may be affected by shrinkage or expansion of the soil due to fluctuations in precipitation or climactic changes.
"Under the circumstances, therefore, you will appreciate that we would not be justified in accepting any responsibility for this claim."
Said McVicker, "It was a sinking feeling in my stomach, just a real gut-wrenching feeling that, you know, this has all been identified, the engineer's reports are all in, they'd done their investigations, and still they're telling me that they're not going to take responsibility for it."
McVicker said the city would not provide him with its own engineering report.
Making things worse, he said, is that his insurance provider won't cover the $61,000 in repairs needed to make the house safe, and it will cancel coverage altogether if it's not fixed by October.
"I would rather just pick up the kids and run, but where do you go when this is all you've got?" McVicker said.
Councillor condemns city's move
Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, whose ward includes McVicker's house, condemned the city's decision to deny the homeowner's claim and called on officials to be transparent with its findings.
"I think the city should really consider this a little bit more seriously, and I don't think they have. So I call on the public service to re-assess this," Wyatt told CBC News.
"Mr. McVicker has done his due diligence and, you know, to simply deny the claim outright … without providing any kind of factual information, I think, is wrong."
McVicker can appeal the decision, but the only other option if that doesn't work would be to sue the city.
Wyatt said the city would lose if McVicker takes it to court because he has done his due diligence, he has the backing of the engineering firm, and the trees are extremely close to the house.
But McVicker said he has to decide whether to spend money on fighting the city or fixing his home.