Need to know my rights

Question Icon
Posted by: from Guelph
7/23/2013 at 4:20:14 PM

Please help. I posted earlier this week about getting an official receipt, and now my contractor is being completely unreasonable.

To start, we do not have a contract, just an estimate - everything we have done has been verbal. This was a mistake yes, but it was the way things were done.

Our contractor said everything would be done by July 10th, then it was pushed to July 20th, now he is leaving Thursday for vacation and the job will not be done.

When I spoke to him I told him I was unhappy and this is unacceptable, he said he would no longer speak to me only the homeowner (my husband).

When my husband got home he told the contractor he had no right to speak to me the way he did and that he is unprofessional and needs to apologize. The contractor threatened to walk off the job and put a $20,000 lien on our home.

The estimate value was $14,000 plus HST. We have given him $9,000 already in cash, as well as just under $800 in materials we purchased ourselves.

Before hiring a lawyer, can someone tell me what I'm up against here, what are my rights?

User Icon
Alpha Design and Construction in Aurora
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:07:21 PM

Do you have a permit for this job... Maybe the city can go after him

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:08:52 PM

How have you been paying him? Cash? Cheque? Credit? Is there any paper trail or is everything verbal?

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:34:52 PM

The contractor is unable to put a lien on your home until the project is finished and to your satisfaction, there are sustain procedures that have to be followed, and by the looks of it not one has been.

Now there are a number of ways to get this contractor: if he is insured, go after the insurance for failure to meet the dead line, failure to sign proper contract, threaten to go to CRA, call WSIB report cash payments too workers, report number of workers and so on.

If he still won't comply, fire and take to court go through mediation, if you both wont agree to terms presented by a judge you will then be allowed to go to trial.

For future, handy Canadian offeres expertise and its knowledge, rate this contractor with a 1 star and report to customer service. Hire contractors that have valid insurance and expertise needed to complete the job.

Best regards,

Serge Pahotski

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:34:56 PM


I think both sides made mistakes, and that is how we learn. You should talk to a lawyer and see what can be done, so things don't drag forever.

Good luck.

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:47:07 PM

Does he provide you with any receipt when he received cash from you? There is common practice to make a note on estimate when some advances had been paid to contractor, and he signed against it...if its had never been done and no track of payments is existing then its a good and bad thing at the same time. Bad thing because there is virtually no legal case here as estimate can not be used as proof that this contractor had ever been working over your renovation. Contractors are doing tens of estimate in a month and unless there is an agreement signed by both parties... it just a paper. So in this case its not very advisable to be offensive as you have no legal case... and he can just walk away from unfinished work. The good thing though is that he do not have any legal proof all his statements about lien on a house is just words... he have nothing to proof that he was working at your address... plus liens legal costs are expensive... mostly used by big guys... for renovation like yours it s not worth it....

So as next steps I would suggest to appraise what have been already done and how much left to finish you renovation and compare to the amount you already paid to him ... if you are on wining side you can just say stop and walk away to find another guy on the street. There are plenty of contractors. If you are on loosing side then calculate what amount you are loosing if you stop work right now. If its less then 2-3 grand then do not even try to get this case to the lawyers. They will charge you about the same plus time ... with very questionable outcome of the trail... As best way of dealing with this situation I suggest to find compromises and finish thing peacefully ... It was a hot week and emotions are flying in the air ....

Wish you a good luck and hope you will resolve this issue.

User Icon
Colin from Colin Electrician in Grimsby
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 5:47:42 PM

I don't think he can put a lien on your house with out having a contract and only verbal. You have not signed anything and depending on what type of contractor he is.

Has he taken permits out for the job? And if not take out your own permits as a home owner and tell them the business name.

I'm an electrical contractor so I know when I do electrical work on somebody's home I have to issue a permit.

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 6:08:45 PM

He could put a lien on the house, but by the sounds of it that would make a complete a.....s.....s.. out of him.

Take pictures of the [uncompleted] work and keep track of time schedule, value of work done. You could put this guy out of business if you go to court. Remember judges are very sympathetic towards the consumer when it comes to clowns like this [wannaby] contractor.

User Icon
Luis from C.c's Contracting in Keswick
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 6:22:35 PM

As a contractor and from my understanding there was no written contract and you did not sign any documents than he has no leg to stand on. If I were you I would part was with him as it sounds like he is just taking you for a ride.

Always have everything in writing and signed whether it be yourself or the contractor.

It really upsets me when I hear of these contractors cause they give the rest of us with integrity a bad name.

User Icon
Date/Time7/23/2013 at 8:10:36 PM

First of all verbal contracts as well that on paper in a eyes of law is of equal value. Second do you have receipt for $9000.00 you gave him?

Now, he obviously breaches the contract and you do not need lawyer to fight him in small clime court. (Up t0 $10,000.00 lime)

Now, it is only way to go to lawyer to take and force that lien off the property because job is not finish and that contractor is lying about $20,000.00. Forcing is giving opposite party two things; one he will be force to sue or he will back off. Then you countersue for unfulfilled job and try recover $9,000.00.

In present situation you force lien! This is very good strategy and in the end you will win. Fire letter to demand this lien removed or you will take legal action. If you have mortgage that will complicate situation as Bank will demand title clean but if legal procedure is instigated they cannot do much.

Initial consultation with lawyer is free but remember lawyers cost money! Use them only for services like:

1. Removal of lien

2. Counter-sue for breach of contract to recover $9,000.00

3. If HST is involved check if that fellow has HST/GST Number with Revenue Canada (He might be in big trouble with them if he has not have number)

Issue ultimatum to demand your money back and lien taken off (Usually 30 days) it will look better in court.

Lien is only good for 1 year then it is expiring. Fire that guy at once and do not pay any more money!

User Icon
Date/Time7/24/2013 at 12:52:06 AM

Call your City Hall (Land Titles) for the info you need in your area. Your lawyer will probably tell you you are wasting your time, expense. Liens have a time limit anyway, it would need to be re posted after he proved in court you are in breach of contract (which there was none).

Call your City and talk to a lawyer, and you'll find out neither of you can do very much.

As Holmes says, do your due diligence, check references, license, bond insurance and have a written agreement with a job scope and terms.

User Icon
Date/Time7/24/2013 at 11:40:03 AM

You should probably get the advice of a lawyer, if you want to know what your rights are. If you don't have a written contract, your rights may be very limited.

You might just want to be patient and wait for the contractor to return from his vacation, and let your husband deal with him. A nagging housewife can be disruptive to this contractor's "loosey- goosey" way of doing business.

Since there is no contract, there is no firm completion date. All I can recommend , is that you be patient, stay in the background and see if the job goes forward when the contractor gets back.

Good Luck.

User Icon
Date/Time7/24/2013 at 9:58:53 PM


The unfortunate part of all this is that all you want is to have the job done. Timing is always an issue and if the delays were legitimate (weather, shortage of material, lack of helpers, etc.) then I'd suggest being a little compassionate and make an attempt to heal any hard feelings. If it has gone beyond that point, get legal advice but be prepared for nasty situations ... on both sides.

I know in my case a client wants a garage to be built but my concrete contact has four garage pads to prepare, grade, gravel, tamp, pour, etc. Of course my client wants to be the first in line but ... that's not how it works. The weather in my neck of the woods has been wet then dry then wet again, which throws all scheduling out of wack.

The best answer I can provide my clients is that I'm doing my best to please all my clients. I explain why delays in construction happen and that an estimate is generally based on everything "going according to plan". As to the contract and other concerns, ... you're playing hard ball. It sounds as if you push and he pushes back and you push harder and so on. The legal thing leaves the both of you with ill feeling, a lot of mistrust and loss of money from both parties.

If your happy with the quality of his work, mend a fence and wish him a pleasant vacation. Believe me, he knows your project isn't finished and your comments may encourage him to respond in a favourable way.

Most of the contractors are dealing with scheduling issues but remember we (client and contractor) all want the job to be done ... and to the customers satisfaction.



User Icon
Date/Time7/26/2013 at 5:03:59 PM


Contractors, like the one you hired, give every other contractor a bad name...Have you seen Mike Holmes? Every show is based on dirt bag contractors. Kick him out and hire a lawyer. They know what can be done legally. We contractors would only be guessing.

Don't forget, you have rights too!

Tony Vetere

User Icon
Date/Time8/16/2013 at 3:44:48 PM

Sounds like this contractor needs a vacation- having clients hound you is more stressful than the day to day operation of a contracting business.

Let cooler heads prevail here: when this guy gets back from his holiday- have a sit down & work out a completion/payment schedule. I see this is not about the quality of work, but the timing- and as mentioned above- contractors have no control over a lot different factors. The threat to walk may be real, but he'll feel different with a few days off.

To the homeowners- if you tell a contractor you are unhappy with something, most contractors will bend over backwards to see the smile on your face. If you tell them that something is unacceptable, tread lightly.

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area.

Find your home service pro
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get Free Estimates

Post your project and compare offers from top-rated pros.