Calgary

Builders must pay for public property damage, says Coun. Druh Farrell

Coun. Druh Farrell says contractors should be on the hook to clean up the "millions" in messes they leave behind.

Homebuilder says city rules make it complicated to repair damages

Coun. Druh Farrel says damages to public property, everything from broken trees to buckled sidewalks, costs the city and taxpayers millions every year. (Druh Farrell)

Coun. Druh Farrell has convinced city council to pass a motion to ensure that "sloppy" contractors pay for and fix the damage they leave in the wake of construction work.

Druh Farrell is proposing that companies pay for the damage done to city property during the construction phase. (CBC)

But at least one Calgary homebuilder says city rules make it "pretty onerous" to repair damages.

The roads department estimates the damages to sidewalks, streets and laneways costs the city "millions" of dollars annually and it's getting worse, Farrell says.

  • What do  you think? Should construction companies pay for property damage they leave behind? Leave a comment below.
  • Send us photos of messy job sites in your neighbourhood at photos@cbccalary.ca.

"They're doing damage to the public realm — they should be paying for it. It shouldn't be Calgarians picking up the tab for sloppy work," Farrell says.

A few weeks ago, Farrell tweeted two pictures, one showing a cracked sidewalk and another showing a mangled tree left behind at an infill project. 

"It has been a big issue for inner-city communities, but every community has experienced it," she said.

"It's not every contractor, most are very responsible, but we have a few who have a perennial issue of damaging property — sidewalks, curbs, streets, trees and laneways — and it's costing the city a lot of money," Farrell says.

Farrell is proposing a process that would require the contractor to document the existing site before construction begins, and then repeat the process once the job is done.

Costly to contractors

Local homebuilder Dan Hill of Hillson Homes, whose company specializes in inner-city infill homes, isn't happy with Farrell's proposal.

"The process for getting those damages repaired can be quite involved and pretty onerous," Hill says.

That includes getting sidewalks or streets repaired. Hill says companies like his must hire a contractor through the city or take on the work itself, which can tie up large sums of money for years.

"So there can be quite an outlay of capital to get the work done and warranty it for the time the city requires."

Currently, Farrell says contractors are only required to pay a small bond, but it's never enough to cover the cost and it's still difficult to find out who's responsible, she says.

And, there's no process in place for the city to recoup the money retroactively, once the damage is done, Farrell says.

Ultimately, she'd like to see the process streamlined "to make it easy for people to do the right thing."

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