NEWS

Burnaby home damaged by condo construction, claims owner

04/14/2015 10:30 EDT | Updated 06/22/2015 03:59 EDT
When Patricia LeSavage moved to the suburbs from downtown Vancouver, she was hoping to find peace and quiet. Instead, the former nurse found herself in the middle of pounding construction that she believes badly damaged her home.

Four years after LeSavage began living in her two-storey home at the corner of Sperling and Arcola Streets in Burnaby, she learned Polygon Homes would build a 26-storey condo tower — "Luma" — directly across the street.  What ensued was two years of near constant construction that reached its peak between 2010 and 2011.

She remembers her breaking point.

"I came out because my house was shaking so much", LeSavage said.

"This crack appeared," she said pointing to a split in the concrete path leading to her front steps. 

"And then this big chunk of my front step fell off. So I picked it up and I looked at [one of the construction crew] and said, 'Stop! You're breaking my house!"

But it didn't stop.

LeSavage began making a video diary, documenting what she claims was on-going damage — her rear driveway cracked by a heavy truck, her fence knocked down three times and hairline cracks radiating from the corners of outside windows and door frames.

She believes the worst damage was caused by a vibrating roller compactor — a steamroller-like machine that repeatedly drove past the side of her home, flattening the torn-up roadway.

In video shot at the time, a cookie sheet atop her stove appears to rattle in harmony with the compactor. As the machine runs up and down the street mere metres away outside her window. LeSavage's voice can barely be heard above the din: 

"The vibrations in my house, I can feel it (sic) underfoot. My whole house is trembling."

Promises of repairs

LeSavage showed the damage to a Polygon vice president who toured the property in 2010, and she says he promised repairs worth $22,000 would be made. But later, the executive denied a dollar figure had been discussed. 

The developer's legal department then stepped in and suggested much of the damage might be due to pre-existing problems with LeSavage's house, such as shoddy construction and settling.

LeSavage rejects that allegation.

"My house was just fine," she said. "There was nothing wrong with it. So all of a sudden, you have these huge trucks and you have people on your property and you have this shaking going on for years and you think nothing is going to happen to your house? They didn't cause anything? That's ridiculous."

Home insurer blames Polygon

Unable to get compensation from Polygon, LeSavage tried to file a claim with her home insurer.

But after assessing her claim, Canadian Direct Insurance wrote: "It has been determined that damages to your dwelling are the result of earth vibrations caused by the heavy machinery and equipment used in your area last year."

LeSavage's insurance claim was rejected.

LeSavage also tried to get compensation under the National Home Warranty Program, but was denied.

CBC uncovers legal foul-up

LeSavage brought in her own estimators, who assessed the damage at $80,000. She hired a lawyer, who added $20,000 for pain and suffering, bringing the total claim to $100,000.

But then nothing happened for 4 years– until the LeSavage turned to the CBC.

After contacting Polygon, CBC discovered the lawyer never sent the claim to Polygon, despite writing LeSavage in June, 2013, that he had done so, and advising her he was still waiting for a response from Polygon.

Shortly afterwards, the organization that regulates lawyers, the Law Society of B.C., cited the lawyer for discipline on unrelated cases. The lawyer then was found to have committed professional misconduct several times.

He no longer practices law.

Polygon 'surprised'

Approached by CBC News, Polygon president Neil Chrystal says he was "very surprised" to hear LeSavage's case hadn't been resolved.

"We pride ourselves on being good neighbours and being good corporate citizens when we go into a neighbourhood," said Chrystal, who promised to examine LeSavage's concerns.

"I've been brought into the situation now and I'd welcome the opportunity to meet and see if we couldn't sort the situation out. At the end of the day we want to do the right thing."

LeSavage just wants her home back the way it was before the neighbouring Condo tower was constructed.

"They damaged my house, they should fix it," she said. "I'm asking for them to fix what they broke."

MORE:cbcNews