By Colin Sheehan, RCS Reporter.
Last summer, hail the size of tennis balls rocketed down at speeds of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour on Calgary, Alberta. The hail shredded homes, destroyed roofs, smashed windows and obliterated cars. The storm occurred on June 13 and is recorded as the 4th most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. However, an estimated two-thirds of damage is yet to be handled and costs are estimated to be near $500 million dollars.
“It looks like a war zone,” said Chelsea Broadbridge, Executive Director at Alberta Allied Roofing Association (AARA). “It destroyed absolutely everything in its path and homes are still boarded up just waiting to be fixed.”
Too many Alberta homeowners either lack the proper home insurance to cover the extensive damage or do not have home insurance. However, those who do have home insurance are not seeing a ton of results. Most insured homeowners are still living in damaged homes, waiting for a call back from their insurance company – nearly seven months after the storm. To make matters worse, Alberta is currently in the height of their winter season.
“It’s very common in Alberta that we get crazy, crazy winters” said Chelsea, “Minus 20 is normal, but we do get as cold as minus 45, and that can sometimes last weeks. So, people are being left without the proper siding or insulation and with holes in their roof. When it snows and gets really cold and it's just not safe for a family to be in the home.”
Despite this storm's abnormal intensity, it was not considered “unforeseeable” in the eyes of the Alberta and federal government and therefore does not qualify for additional assistance. In short, homeowners are being left out in the cold, not qualifying for help from either the government or their insurance companies.
“I think the insurance companies are learning the hard way that they were not equipped to deal with such a large influx of claims,” said Chelsea.
A lot of insurance companies also have preferred contractors that homeowner clients are directed to use to fix their roofs and homes. However, AARA is finding that many of these “preferred contractors” are not actually qualified roofing contractors.
“A lot of consumers are getting their work completed through their insurance company, but it's actually really poor workmanship and their homes are still needing further repairs.”
AARA is in discussions with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to get them to review their processes on how they “qualify” a roofing professional. Additionally, there are currently no requirements or licensing programs to become a roofing contractor in Alberta. Which, to put lightly, has become a large problem as Alberta has now seen a large influx of illegitimate roofing contractors looking to make a quick dollar.
“Anybody in Alberta with no experience, that’s never gone to school, that’s never been in the roofing industry, could just have a truck and a ladder and put on their vehicle that they’re a roofer and become a roofer. It doesn’t take much,” said Chelsea. “Before the storm happened, there were about 200 known roofing contractors in Calgary. After the storm, there were close to 2,000 contactors listed in southern Alberta alone.”
Chelsea explained that Alberta used to be a large oil hub, but in the last few years the oil and gas industry faced a rapid decline, and many people lost their jobs. After that, COVID-19 struck, making a bad economic downturn worse. With so many people needing roofing and siding recovery replacements and with the lack of roofing requirements and certification in Alberta, many people saw the storm as an opportunity to make money.
“We've got a number of inexperienced roofers that are taking money from homeowners, very vulnerable homeowners. These ‘contractors’ will take a $5,000 deposit and never come back to complete the work, which is illegal. In the province of Alberta, you cannot take a deposit from anybody unless you are licensed with Service Alberta, which there is only a handful of contractors in this province that actually are licensed with Service Alberta.”
The influx of illegitimate contractors has also driven up the price of supplies, which are now being stolen from job sites and re-sold at double the cost.
"Contractors have to lock up their materials because people will actually go on the roof and steal shingles and tools. It's happening daily,” said Chelsea.
Another issue stemming from the influx of illegitimate contractor companies is their complete lack of knowledge about the roofing trade. Very few of them know how to bid on a job or pay their workers properly. Most are promising their workers double what they actually pay them or fail to pay them at all. They do not provide safety training or proper equipment either, which has resulted in many injuries, fines and even fatalities. “Someone fell off a roof because there was no safety training. He wasn't harnessed in, he didn’t have a helmet, and unfortunately he fell off the roof, and it was fatal.”
Going forward, AARA’s main goals are to educate the homeowner on what to look for when finding and hiring a roofing contractor, pushing the insurance companies to use a qualified roofing professional for repairs and replacement work and driving the government towards licensing the roofing trade.
If you are interested in supporting the community of Alberta, you can donate or sign this petition designed to get the attention of government officials and to raise money for homeowners.