Better claims process needed for construction damage, Edmonton councillor says

The city needs to take a bigger role of the claims process when homes are damaged by city construction projects, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

'We saw our patio door shatter before our eyes,' says Mill Woods homeowner

The City of Edmonton has been replacing drainage pipes in a number of neighbourhoods. (City of Edmonton)

The city needs to take a bigger role of the claims process when homes are damaged by city construction projects, says Coun. Mike Nickel.

"What I'm hearing from constituents is that as soon as a claim is put against the city, the city seems to be washing their hands of it, saying [the residents] have to go to court and sue the sub-contractor," said Nickel.

"Saying to someone.. it's not our problem when it is a city project, something seems very wrong here," said Coun. Mike Nickel. (CBC)

When it comes to city projects, the city has to take some responsibility, he said.

"Saying to someone who's got a cracked foundation from a drainage project, 'Suck it up buttercup, it's not our problem' when it is a city project, something seems very wrong here," he said.

"We're supposed to be watching this stuff so I put these inquiries forward saying we can't wash our hands and walk away," said Nickel.

Homeowner feels betrayed

Mill Woods resident Willy Jabs said he feels betrayed by the city after his home was damaged last summer when a crew contracted by the city was replacing the drainage pipe on the street in front of his house at 43rd Avenue and 89th Street.

Once the new pipe was in, heavy machinery was used to pack the earth, he said.

"The walls in our house shook, dishes in our cupboards shook," he said Thursday. "The vibrations shook our whole neighbourhood."

During dinner, a few days later, he and his wife heard an odd sound coming from the sun room.

"We saw our patio door shatter before our eyes," Jabs said. "It just crackled to pieces no bigger than a half inch, and just shattered."

They looked around their home and noticed new cracks on the dining room ceiling.

Jabs said he wasn't too concerned at first since an engineering company, hired by the city, had come into their home before the construction work began and spent two hours inspecting the home and taking pictures.

They filed a claim with the city, which was rejected.

After Jabs contacted the project manager, the same engineering company returned and took pictures of the damage.

Another claim was filed. It too was rejected.
Willy Jabs said the glass in his patio door was shattered last summer because of vibrations during construction on the street outside his home in Mill Woods. (Willy Jabs)

"I'm very disappointed in the whole process," Jabs said. 

He's been told by city officials he can take the subcontractor to court and sue for the $1,600 in damage to his property, something Jabs said isn't worth the time, effort and cost.

"This process is not fair," said Jabs. "You can't do this to people and get away with this."

With more construction happening in mature neighbourhoods, the city has to look at monitoring the work, said Nickel.

"I have a number of files sitting on my desk about people who say my foundations' been cracked because of an infill project, or because of a drainage project. These are their houses we're talking about," said Nickel.

A report clarifying the the city's claims process is expected to come to city council in November.