New rules designed to shield Fort McMurray from ‘unscrupulous’ homebuilders

CALGARY – The resumes of companies that want to rebuild homes destroyed or damaged by the Fort McMurray wildfires will be posted online by the Alberta government in a move to help residents avoid hiring “unscrupulous” builders.

Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said Wednesday that homebuilders who wish to work in the ravaged northern Alberta community, the headquarters for Canada’s oilsands region, will have to register a “builder declaration” before they can apply for a building permit.

The builder’s construction and financial history, along with outstanding fines or orders, will also be made available online for homeowners to see.

More than 80,000 people were forced from their homes on May 3 by the wildfire. The province says more than 1,900 residential units were destroyed.

Larivee said the decision to toughen the New Home Buyer Protection Act and the Safety Codes Act was prompted by problems that emerged five years ago after one-third of the houses in her home community of Slave Lake, Alta., were destroyed by an out of control fire.

She said she has talked to some people from that community who are still battling homebuilders in court.

“Five years ago, I watched many in my community who struggled through the rebuilding process at a time when they were already vulnerable. They didn’t know how to choose the right builder for them or what should be included in a contract,” Larivee said.

“It was a tremendously stressful experience and many Slave Lake families did not have the support they needed … in fact several families continue to deal with the consequences of that lack of support.”

Jim Rivait, CEO of the Alberta branch of the Canadian Home Builder’s Association, said the new regulations will be easy for existing homebuilders to adopt but will work to protect consumers from “unqualified or unscrupulous” builders.

“This is especially important when opportunists are likely to make unrealistic claims about how quickly they can build a home in Fort McMurray,” he said.

“Rebuilding the community will be a long process that will require patience and co-ordination. It will also require skilled professionals who stand behind the homes they build instead of skipping town if problems come up.”

Charles Iggulden, president of the Fort McMurray Construction Association, said he hasn’t heard of any problems with homebuilders in Fort McMurray as yet but applauded the government’s move as a wise preventative measure.

“All of the steps they’re taking, actually are very, very positive and common sense based,” he said. “The biggest fear or worry is warranty after the houses are built. Some companies may just fold up after and go. Homeowners won’t be able to get warranty over a long term.”

He said no houses are being rebuilt yet because a cleanup must be completed first, but insurance companies are working with policyholders to identify potential builders and schedule work.

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