What to do if I cannot get in touch with my contractor?

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Posted by: from Toronto
7/28/2015 at 8:27:01 PM

I hired a contractor to build a garage in my backyard. A contract was signed and I put down a 50% deposit so they can proceed with getting the survey, submitting for the permit, etc. The actual physical job has not started yet and now I have not been able to contact the contractor for a few weeks by phone, text or email (the job was supposed to start next week). My fear is that they have taken off with my deposit.

What should be my next step? Should I hire a lawyer to get my deposit back, and how wpoudl I find such a lawyer? Any other recommendations on what I should do?


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Date/Time7/28/2015 at 9:09:39 PM

Hi Adam,

If they have not done anything and not started the project. There has been no communication. Then this is criminal fraud not civil. Call the Toronto Fraud squad and consumers protection. Explain to the police what you have written here and they should act quickly. This not civil and make sure the police understand that.

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Date/Time7/28/2015 at 9:12:14 PM

A 50% deposit is way too much. I usually take a $2000.00 deposit no matter the size of the job. I would start a small claims action. If he shows up to start the work you can always withdraw the action. No more money till done.

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Dave from 360renos in Navan
Date/Time7/28/2015 at 9:41:34 PM

Hi Adam,

Here is a link to Ontario Consumer Protection info that should help you.


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Date/Time7/28/2015 at 9:49:30 PM


I would suggest that if you have his business card and/or a contract, there should be a pfysical address on it. I would suggest going to the address directly and ask the question about lack of communication and start time. If you get the "I've been very busy" or "something came up", ask for your deposit back. If there is a further issue, tell the contractor you will contact the Better Business Bureau (which may help a little) and also mention legal action. Contact Legal Aide and they can assist and/or re-direct you. Often the threat of action will promote a response. Sorry to hear about the issue, it shouldn't happen but, especially if you have a contract, you have some recourse. Good luck.


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Adam in Toronto
Date/Time7/29/2015 at 2:12:33 PM

Thanks for all your replies and advice which I will consider. This is the 1st time I have hired an unknown contractor for reno work and needless to say it has given me a very negative opinion, however it's good to know that there are others in your industry such as yourselves who are helpful and honest. I will give the contractor a deadline to get back to me and if that passes I will expose their company in a review (I found them through this website and they are still listed).

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Date/Time7/29/2015 at 2:27:30 PM

Even if the contract is 100,000.00. I would not ask for a deposit greater than about six to seven thousand until we actually show up with the equipment and materials.

You should have had a week chosen for the work to commence within the contract.

I would check with your building department and see if the permit has been issued, and when.

If the contractor is not answering your attempts at communication I would call the fraud department in your area.

If the contractor was found in trusted pros I would also contact them to make them aware. But be very detailed, dates, amounts, work to be completed etc.

Good luck with it.


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Date/Time7/29/2015 at 11:08:06 PM

Hi Adam,

Yes do not waste time and go to the small claim court.

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Adam in Toronto
Date/Time1/30/2016 at 8:42:38 PM

Since my original posting in late July, things have gotten worse. She finally did call me in early August with a poor excuse about tending to a sick relative. Things did progress after that, albeit slowly. We managed to complete the design, get the permit and dig the hole for the foundation by early November. Shortly after the hole was dug, her 2 phone#s were disconnected and I was not able to contact her. The backhoe company then contacted me and threatened to put a lien on my house because she did not pay them and they could not contact her either. I reported her to the Toronto Police Financial crimes division and I haven't heard any feedback yet, but I know my deposit is gone along with her. The company name is 'Ellis Construction Pros' and her name is Charmaine Ellis. If anyone has had recent contact with her or know of her whereabouts please let me know.

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Date/Time2/13/2016 at 6:28:22 PM

Never put more than 10% down. Here in alberta it is law. Try to deal with the contractor as much as possible Legal pursuit is only going to make the lawyers rich trust me been there.

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Date/Time7/10/2016 at 7:24:58 PM

10% of a contract is legally all a contractor can ask for as a deposit. Until work is actually started they can ask for 20-30 etc depending on the size of the job and how contract is written.

It is muppets like this that give hard working contractors a bad rep.

Sorry to hear and I hope you get a hold of them.

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Date/Time11/22/2016 at 12:19:49 PM

I know this is an old question but was curious what precautions were taken before you gave a deposit. Did you check any references?


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