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This is what LBSA might have prevented

My previous column in July suggested that Leaside should come up with some kind of builders’ seal of approval as a way to ensure residents aren’t bullied by badly behaved builders who care little about the people who live here and only about lining their pockets.

The LBSA (Leaside Builders Seal of Approval), I thought, could be a combined database and ratings site that would ferret out the bad apples operating in the neighbourhood by chronicling resident experiences, both good and bad, when dealing with building contractors and the like.

Little did I know that my story would strike a little too close to home for one Leaside resident who also happens to keep the neighbourhood safe working out of Station 321 on McRae Dr.

A firefighter for 16 years, Dave Roynon grew up in Leaside. It’s always been his home, and God willing, will remain his home for the rest of his life.

Roynon contacted me by email shortly after the July issue was distributed to homes in the area. He wanted to let me know he thought my LBSA idea was bang on.

He then proceeded to tell me his personal story of contractor hell, one that’s cost him a lot of money, time, frustration, not to mention led to significant contempt for renovation and building professionals operating in the area.

With homes worth considerable sums and seemingly appreciating on a daily basis, busy Leasiders interested in adding value to their homes are easy prey for sloppy contractors who know people here have neither the time nor the inclination to supervise a job site from start to finish. As a result, many contractors charge top dollar for work done here, with absolutely no qualms about doing so.

As P.T. Barnum is reputed to have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Dave Roynon’s tale is one that could happen to anyone, anywhere. It’s relevant to Leaside, I believe, because those living in the M4G postal code tend to pride themselves on being very community-minded; detractors might call it hyper-NIMBYism, but there’s no denying Leasiders are passionate about their neighbourhood.

I believe that if a non-profit version of Angie’s List can succeed anywhere, it’s in wonderfully old-school Leaside where resistance to development is alive and well.

Roynon’s story is a cautionary one. A single dad living on Fleming Cres., raising a son, and working as a firefighter, Roynon thought he’d convert the basement into a nice, income-producing rental property which would help provide him with the time and funds to support his son and home.

A former colleague suggested Roynon contact his brother, who was, the colleague attested, a very capable builder. He did. More than two years later, Roynon’s spent more than $80,000 for a basement and deck that’s only about 60 percent complete.

When I visited his house in July to discuss the matter, I happened to comment on the nice deck off the master bedroom on the second floor. He said, “I did that.”

It’s a shame that Roynon, who has little time to use his considerable carpentry skills because of his obligations to both his son and job, had to rely on a referral from a self-interested party who ultimately sent him down a two-year-long rabbit hole.

Roynon accepts that the money’s gone and he should have done a better job checking the contractor’s previous work but felt his former colleague’s recommendation was the only assurance he needed.

At this point he simply wants to make sure others don’t make the same mistake he did.

“For most, someone’s home is the biggest investment in their life,” says Roynon. “Are people aware just how much damage contractors can do to your home once you let them in?”

If you do let a contractor into your home, he advises, make sure you have a rock solid contract in place, because in his experience, without one, there is NO protection from the courts or the city, which tend to side with contractors.

In Roynon’s opinion, one I happen to share, Leaside residents can and must do something to protect themselves from unscrupulous builders and renovation specialists working in the area.

The LBSA, along with an online tutorial for prospective homeowners looking to make physical or even cosmetic changes to their homes, would be a very good start.

His loss doesn’t need to be yours.