Oakville Homes

November 13, 2013

Want to write a complaint against Mattamy or any other builder. Follow Roseman’s advice.

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I read a very informative column in the November 13th Toronto Star Business Section (B2) written by Ellen Roseman, a writer on personal finance and consumer issues.  I have copied it below as it is a very good article if you wish to lodge a complaint in public against a contractor, builder, developer or any business.  A lot of businesses want you to put POSITIVE reviews on various websites, some to the point of throwing extras at you (which can make any review somewhat suspect).  Some builders have been accused of winning awards by stacking the deck with freebies, good service, etc and have received good reviews.  Some people have written they regret giving these positive surveys as the good service and freebies disappeared once the survey was in.

These surveys are a two-way street and so are the websites builders want you to go to and put in a good word.  It also allows those of us shafted to speak the truth.  Some builders will use bully boy tactics and lawyers to go after those who speak the truth.  They don’t bother those who lie and put in wrong reviews that make them look good.

I myself have experienced the bully boy and lawyer treatment.  I had one Mattamy Homes lawyer yell at me in a truly unprofessional manner.  If I had done that at work, several agencies would have cut me a new one.

We all have the right of freedom of speech but it does come with some responsibilities.  In my case, I’ve spoken the truth and I am sure Mattamy Homes really doesn’t want the whole thing brought out into public – thus the gag order.  I am limited.  If you wish to put forward your displeasure, there are various avenues in which you can exercise your right.  A recent article in the Toronto Star notes that NDP MPP Rosario Marchese (  rmarchese-co@ndp.on.ca ) is trying to introduce a new bill that will correct some of the unfairness some experience with Tarion.  He states that “Ontarians deserve and need meaningful consumer protection on the largest purchase most of them ever make – a new home”.  Hopefully he will get the support he needs.  Why not email him and let him know the taxpayer in Ontario supports him.  I only wish they would pass legislation that would allow new homebuyers to hire a professional house inspector to monitor the construction and protect their interests.  The present system does not really give us the protection we need.

Below is Roseman’s column.  She gives good advice.  Just tell the truth.

Note:  Any Mattamy lawyer who feels I have not stated the truth, let me know and I will consider any complaint from you.  Just don’t use the Bully Boys again – they might upset the neighbours.  Also, for the record, I am not NDP and therefore not pushing or supporting Marchese for re-election but, I have to give him KUDOS for doing something our Liberal and Conservatives (who get money from the developers) have not done.

Nasty online reviews can lead to lawsuits: Roseman

If a company gives bad service, you might write an online review telling others to stay away. Make sure your comments are factual.

By:        On Your Side,        Published on Tue Nov 12 2013
You hire a contractor after seeing good reviews online. But when the work doesn’t measure up, you write a review warning others to stay away.

Be careful what you post. Bad reviews can result in retaliation.

If the company you target for criticism thinks you went too far, it may respond by posting nasty comments about you. It may call your home to harass you. And it may threaten to sue for libel or defamation.

I recently heard from a Toronto couple, who got into an online war of words with a contractor that escalated into the equivalent of a nuclear meltdown. The dispute was about a $400 repair job.

“We paid what we thought was a fair price and we got very poor service,” said the 2,000-word review they posted at several websites, giving the firm a rating of half a star (out of five stars).

The contractor responded by calling the review a toxic and aggressive rant, which served no purpose other than to cause damage, and saying it would litigate if the review were not removed.

The threat worked. The couple cut the review to 30 words, saying they had an unpleasant experience, felt intimidated at times and didn’t plan to use the company’s services again.

That wasn’t enough to satisfy the contractor, who posted another comment next to the revised review, saying the clients had mental health issues and wanted to get the job for free.

The online war turned into a phone war. Company representatives called and left several voicemail messages, saying they would come to their home with lawyers and the whole police division.

“I am scared and feel at my breaking point,” says the wife, who considered taking down the revised review, but decided not to give in to threats.

“This is a pretty extreme case,” says Monica Goyal, a lawyer who deals with HomeStars, a website where customers can leave reviews about companies (and where the couple’s original review was posted).

Her firm is working with HomeStars to help ordinary people understand the difference between a negative review and a defamatory review.

“A high quality negative review is one that informs other members of the community about your experience with a business,” says Goyal’s firm, Aluvion Law.

“A review that is defamatory exists mainly to express how angry or upset the reviewer feels and to damage the reputation of the business.”

The lawyers say consider five things before writing an online review:

  • Wait before you write.

Emotions run high after a bad experience. Let your mind clear and your anger abate before posting comments. Otherwise, you might say something you regret later.

  • Watch your words.

What you write online can be seen by anyone. And if you contradict yourself, writing one thing online and then denying it, this can be used against you in a court action.

  • Be honest and fair.

Don’t use malicious or hurtful statements against someone else (such as liar, crook, thief or fraudster). Don’t write anything that you can’t prove in court.

  • It’s about you, not them.

Focus on what happened, using your own perspective, and don’t use your experience to make generalizations about the company. “I was not happy with the service” is better than “they are known for ripping off their customers.”

  • Stick to the facts.

Provide concrete details that are hard to dispute: “The crew was supposed to start at 8 am, but didn’t show up until after 2 pm.” Quote specific promises that the company did not fulfill, such as cleaning up the dirt left behind at your property.

Corporate bullying does exist, says HomeStars president Brian Sharwood. He wants his content team to start flagging companies that systematically harass clients who post bad reviews.

So, here’s a warning to those who think a negative review is a substitute for going to court over a small dispute.

Make sure to write a review that is factual and fair. Angry online comments can lead to litigation, an outcome that you had hoped to avoid.

Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at eroseman@thestar.ca or www.ellenroseman.com

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March 26, 2013

Oakville building department uses power when convenient? Not when it should?

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“Town was ready to block plant” – so read the headline on the front page of the “Oakville Beaver”. They are referring to the infamous power plant that was stopped in Oakville on the eve of an election. (Also Mississauga)

Liberals started the plant – Liberals stopped the plant – a Liberal was re-elected.

What can we say except that this political maneuvering may cost all taxpayers in the 3 digit millions. And, someone is going to pocket that money as well. Friends of the Liberals?

But, I like Mayor Burton’s comment: “Oakville was on track to block the building of a controversial power plant when former premier Dalton McGuinty’s government decided to cancel it amid strong community opposition.”

No building permit was to be issued based on pollution and safety concerns. I guess things have changed under Burton’s leadership. Under former mayor Anne Mulvale, a building inspector passed my furnace even though it had illegal wiring. Power plant gets stopped at great expense to the taxpayer while my house is allowed to be sold with illegal wiring.

At my expense.

I guess the building department only uses its authority when it is politically expedient. Oh, yes, I have mentioned that Wellspring received a donation from Mattamy Homes and Billionaire Gilgan (1.8B) at the request of Anne Mulvale.

For some reason we pay our taxes and trust the system, a system that is manipulated by those who use it for their own gain and hide behind the trust of those who believe in it.  The Town of Oakville tells us to trust the Building Department when it comes to the construction of our homes.  They don’t make the regulations but supposedly enforce the Building Code.  But, just how well do they enforce it?  My blog has shown they aren’t that good about it.  I know people who have been in court for years in regards to the Town of Oakville and certain environmental issues that have occurred.  Like human waste flowing in the Sixteen Mile Creek.  My kids swam in that creek, not knowing about the sludge overflowing into the watershed.  So much for standards.

You trust the Mattamy name?  For the full version, read the comment at the bottom of this blog.  This is how a builder will screw you.  The Town of Oakville was given a chance to correct the issues.  They state that they don’t have enough inspectors but refuse to pass a by-law stating that a new homeowner could hire a house inspector to monitor their build.  What better way to enforce the building code.

And, what professional and honest builder would balk at that?  How could they argue against a licensed professional and insured house inspector monitoring the build?  In commercial builds, the owner has people helping them so, it has been established practice in some construction.  Lets just expand the practice to protect homeowners.

Do not assume you have an occupancy permit.  Have your lawyer ask for one before closing.  Make the municipality work for those added charges to the price of your house.

Here is what our elected (and sometimes supported by donations from developers) officials would be protecting us from.  In this case, it just happens to be Mattamy.

“I have found so many little issues in our Mattamy home. On their own, it’s trivial, but added up, the sum is just stupid. From suspected insulation issues around the living room bay window, master bedroom overhang, and garage, to hot air that just won’t reach the farthest room in the house (the master washroom) that results in a freezing master, to odd air flow where the upstairs can’t be cooled in summer. Wicked condensation in winter on ALL windows in the house that can pool and lead to mould if not kept up on. The carpet is just disgusting- the little living room carpet was made from two pieces!!!! The seam is very obvious. The pile is so flat and pulling up at the same time. The mortar in the bricks is like sand in some isolated areas. Caulking is already deteriortating and the house isn’t even 10 years old! The casement windows are a bitch to open and close and are already showing signs of falling apart. The spalling (spalling???) cement along the parimeter of the porch has all but crumbled away. I just had to replace the sump pump that comes on maybe 6 times a year. The yard landscaping is like a lumpy field of little hills.

All and all, I would never buy a Mattamy (or Devonleigh) or possibly other cooky cutter home from a large developer again. I really think basic workmanship is pissed away for speed. And it’s funny because this is the LARGEST purchase a person will make in their lives, and we have NO real way to get these mistakes corrected.

One person in our community had the wrong bricks and colour put up. Mattamy offered them something like 10000 in upgrades, but refused to let them out of the contract for the house, or correct the bricks. And really, that’s BS because of how much money we pay for homes. I give someone $350000, and I expect what I pay for.

But home consumers have zero rights in Canada.”

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June 3, 2011

Brigette DePape and I have something in common – protest will do nothing.**

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Today, Brigette DePape, a Canadian House of Commons page, achieved her dubious 15 minutes of fame and the adoration of all the left wingers who are making a career of being anti-Harper, by walking onto the Senate floor holding a red “Stop Harper” sign. The colour is probably appropriate considering all the Marxist supporters who are Tweeting like mad on this one. Although I may have some empathy for someone who is totally frustrated with the political system ( I had the same for the Liberal Party and NDP) and wants to express themselves, she took advantage of her honourable position as a Page to put forward a personal view. I find it interesting all the left wingers are supporting this while they condemn the police for their G20 actions. Maybe the Police were just using their position to let others know what they felt about the Black Bloc. 🙂

But, this blog is not built on making a lot of social or political comment, except to point out those failures which seemed to sometimes benefit builders and I use Mattamy as an example.

I used the system to complain about the illegal wiring that Mattamy had put in my house – wiring that put my young children at risk. But, it seems no one really cared.  I complained officially with the Town of Oakville and yes, they did send out someone to do a report on the matter but, I never saw it nor did it ever come to council. The person who did the report alluded to the fact that it would not been seen by anyone, except the Mayor. The Mayor, she was very democratic you see. 🙂

Yes, Council allowed the complaint to follow the usual channels, hoping it would go away. Even the Mayor came to one meeting, something I understand was rare. She tried to cut me a new one but, I guess she forgot I was used to dealing with lawyers. It went through the system, got to council and then was swiftly sent to the province – to die on the vine. The fact that one of the councillors who voted to send it to the province and was voted into the provincial parliament did nothing, is another matter.

So much for democratic process. And, not even an apology from Mattamy or the Town of Oakville, even though their Building director stated this should not happen. Well, it did but nothing was done about it.

So Brigette, I can understand your behaviour if you were truly frustrated with what happened.  Too bad you ruined future prospects, unless working in left wing organizations is your final goal.  You see, people respect gumption but also like to see some protocol.  How would you feel if people started to picket your parent’s place day and night and protest your actions?  It’s kind of like the graffiti  artist getting his own house done.  Mattamy, they tried the law suit and bully boy tactics on me to get rid of me at one point.  Even used a yelling lawyer.  And, I did the legal protest and handed out pamphlets.  But I did it in a public space where protests are allowed.  I tried at the Hospital for Sick Children but was asked to leave.  Poor Peter couldn’t understand why he was handed a pamphlet one moment and then some organizer snatched it before he could read it.  There were copies there Peter but if you want to see it, I have a copy I can fax you.

Well Brigette, it will be interesting what happens for the next few days but, all those who can make a change will close up and do nothing and your spot of protest will be for naught.

Make the best of your 15 minutes.

Myself, I have to live with the fact that Mattamy puts children’s lives at risk and the Town of Oakville really doesn’t give a damn.  Now, Ottawa did stop Mattamy from destroying the environment when they charged them for doing illegal landfill, etc.

Oakville got their Wellspring donation, Oakville Hospital donation and the YMCA got  their money (why did the director get dismissed Peter – I might have the answer for you).

But, no apology for me – as they say, I can go pound salt.

 

** I’ve also seen Bridgette DePage for the spelling – depends on which source.

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* The above is intended to show the reader examples of how to obtain a house inspector, no matter which builder you buy from. Remember, awards and advertising are designed to make you buy, not ensure you quality. We’ve shown that awards are not the standard on which to base your decision on. My use of my experiences are not made to embarass Mattamy Homes or Peter Gilgan but, are used because they are based on fact and show the larger picture that a house inspector is a requirment when buying a house, new or old from any builder. My experience only shows that in fact it can happen and is a fact of life. Your experiences with Mattamy may have differed but do not preclude what happened to me from happening again. Beware.

March 30, 2011

Major Developers may be down but not out in Halton.

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As the Federal candidates for our newest Federal election ( 4 in 7 years) start-up the process and hit the hustings to try and explain why they will do any better after this election, our municipal politicians (those who made it and those who didn’t) are finishing off the process by submitting their election expenses/donations. 

If you go to the Town of Oakville link, you will see who gave what to whom during the election, although some are just interim in order to fulfill the legal obligations of a time deadline.  One interesting thing to note is that Max Khan, a new Federal liberal candidate, was voted into the Town of Oakville council during the last municipal election. 

He has decided to go Federal. 

What I found interesting was that he had no contributors – he paid all the expenses himself.  I kind of think he knew beforehand that he wouldn’t be around long and didn’t want to burn any contributor bridges, so to speak.  Shame though.  If he gets elected to the Federal level, we will have to have an expensive by-election.  But, that is another issue.

What was noted in the Oakville Beaver was that DEVELOPERS were notably absent from the contributor listing for Ann Mulvale, known as “Asphalt Annie” to her friends.  Even Peter Gilgan didn’t give her any money.  Guess he’d already given her enough in the past.  Being a supporter of Mulvale, I guess the Beaver wanted to make sure all knew this.  They made no comment about the other financial statements in regards to developers.  Must have realized this was a sore point for Mulvale.

A check of some of the other candidates also showed an absence of Major Developers as contributors.  Of course, I wouldn’t recognize their names as an individual but, as an individual, they certainly have the right to donate money within the specified amounts to a candidate of their choice. 

Does all this mean anything in the grand scheme of things?

I think so.  As we know, Mattamy was very strong about the Development Charges and most of the present Oakville Council aren’t overly sympathetic to their arguments.  They also aren’t threatened by the Mattamy tactic of flooding council chambers to try and sway the politicians.  And, I doubt that the busloads of workers that were brought in are even taxpayers in Halton.  They didn’t even know why they were there, according to former Halton Chair Pomeroy.  So, why would Halton or Oakville council listen to those who want the taxpayer to spend money but don’t pay any themselves locally.

Yes, the major developers were quite in Oakville’s recent election but it could be the cloud before the storm.  We know Councillor O’Connell in Pickering wondered how many candidates in her council took the developer handout while allowing Mattamy to change it’s submitted sub-division plan. 

And, we know they can donate money in other ways. 

Right Peter.

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April 20, 2009

Are mainstream newspapers really investigative??

You will read at the bottom my response to an article written by Kathy English, Public Editor for the Toronto Star.  Titled: “Stories that make a difference“, it focuses on how good the Star is at being an “investigative newspaper”. As you will read from my response, I beg to differ on their analysis of how much effort they really put into being an “investigative newspaper”. If you go to the link, so do a lot of other people.

She states: “At its best, investigative journalism reveals matters of importance that some may not want to be exposed to the public light.”  Well, we know that the fact that Mattamy Homes pleaded guilty to environmental crimes never reached the public light via the T0ronto Star and I believe the Ottawa and Bracebridge problems never did as well.  But then, in all fairness to the Star, they did uncover the sordid details of one of their main advertisers in the act of donating money to various causes and winning awards.  I guess we have a difference of opinion in what “investigative reporting” is and just how to achieve it via big advertising dollars.  Do you think I could advertise this blog in the Star and get exposure?  🙂

We all know that newspapers will favour either the Republicans/Democrats,Conservatives or Liberals (depending what side of the border you are and if you’re for or against Obama or Harper) based on the political viewpoints of their publishers.    They have opinion pages that allow personal viewpoints to be brought forward – a good thing.   But, as a reader, we hope that the NEWS is largely unbiased and only gives us the facts – facts we will interpret and put our OWN bias to it.  Well, the Star may talk the talk but I think they need to learn how to walk the walk.  Investigative reporting – I’ve done more on my blog than they have and I’m not even being paid.

Dear Ms. English

 

I originally wasn’t going to comment on your piece dated April 18th (IN 6 “Stories that make a difference”) but, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the whole story wasn’t being told.  No, it was a good article and made a few good points but, it may have “talked the talk” but we are talking about a paper that no longer “walks the walk”.

 

You mention that the Star is “clearly in a minority of Canadian newspapers in its current commitment to investigative journalism”.    You further state that “investigative reporting as integral to its mission of serving the public trust and championing social justice issues”.  Well, we have seen your paper publically display the income of a few police officers who are working hard and, you recently hounded a police senior officer to his house even in order to further expose his “internal” charges.  I am sure the public at large out there are really concerned on how this will affect their own lives. 

 

But, when you are given solid information that Ford has built F150 trucks with internal manufacturing faults and does not even tell the consumer, you ignore something that not only affects a lot of people but, puts their lives at risk.  Ford was even selling these vehicles knowing they had these faults and didn’t warn the consumer to look out for certain signs.  No, they just let the consumer pay for the repairs.  I guess you consider that good corporate citizenship.

 

And, Mattamy Homes?  Here we have an award winning builder pleading guilty to an environmental crime and it doesn’t appear in your paper nor the other issues in Kanata and Bracebridge, which are covered by much smaller news agencies.

 

What is common between these two?  They are major advertisers in your paper. 

 

Your editor Kevin Donovan is quoted as saying: “”We do these stories to make a difference.  We investigate allegations of wrongdoing and when those allegations are borne out we tell stories that, we hope, make decision-makers take notice. If we are lucky, we bring injustices to light and right wrongs.”  Only those injustices that perk the interest of your reporters and don’t offend your main advertisers it seems is what you write about.  Let’s face it, money talks and so do advertisers.  So, please don’t talk about righting wrongs when you are selective on whom you take on –   non-advertisers and I guess those who can’t defend themselves publically.  Thank god for Blogs.  At least we have an opportunity to bring the truth out into the open.  And you wonder why there is declining readership?  It is called credibility and the Star’s biases are one reason you’re losing readership.

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