Pleading for help. Got scammed by a contractor (very small project), took money, never finished the job (small bathroom project). I am a few months away from retirement. All I wanted to do is a little upgrade to my house before I retired. Just devastated. Please advise me what should I do. Thank you
Contact a legal representative and see what they say as it all depends on contract and what other documentation you have. Sometimes as much as it sucks it may not be worth the legal fees etc but may just have to find someone honest and loyal to complete your project.
To find another contractor proved to be close to impossible. I've spoken to a couple of guys who came over to access the damage. I caught the first one lying to me ouright. Then I read this article: https://nationalpost.com/life/homes/mike-holmes-six-signs-your-contractor-is-probably-a-chump
Mike Homes says:
In the world of contracting, there's the good, the bad and the ugly. About 20% of contractors are good. These contractors have licences, insurance, skill, experience and integrity. They care about the work they do and the people it affects. These are the ones you want to hire, and they're out there.
Unfortunately, about 70% of contractors are bad, and another 10% are downright con artists. Bad contractors don't know any better, and they don't care to learn how to do better. But the ugly contractors the con artists come in and take the most money they can get, doing the least amount of work, to the point where the work is not only bad, it's dangerous"
So the chances to find an honest contractor are close to zero.
Unless I accidentally find someone in that 20% category. Do you know anyone you can recommend?
Solomon from 758 Xpress Excavation and Demolition in Vaughan, I am not talking about casino here, where you can loose or (rarely) win. I am talking here about goods and services and agreements that must be honored, especially when money are paid.
Imagine, you go to a store, buy stuff, clerk gives you your bag with your purchases. You come home - half the stuff is not there. You go back to the store to hear from that clerk: sorry man, your stuff is not there cause sometimes we win, sometimes we loose, get over it, move on and buy the same thing once again. Does it sound right to you?
Unfortunately there isnt much you can do. Guys like this know they are virtually untouchable. They often provide minimal to no paperwork / signed documentation.
Perusing civil litigation often proves futile...especially if there is no contract. The courts generally follow the theory of "nobody can prove that the work provided, was not worth the money paid". Very unfortunate but there is no standard price guide in the trades.
For example - As ridiculous as it seems, nobody can say if removing a sheet of drywall should cost $10 or $1000! Yup...ridiculous. There are average prices set for certain services offered in all trades, but that's more for competition / competitor pricing. Differs from a legal perspective.
So...the only thing you can do is extensive due diligence! Minimum of 5 estimates, background checks, references, check their previous project pics etc. As suggested earlier, via Trusted Pros or similar service as we pay to be a member of this site.
No cash, everything in writing, detailed scope, 10-20% deposit only, set payment schedule, the right trade for the right job (don't hire an electrician to install a bathtub for example...despite how much they insist they can do it), dont base your decision on price alone as you absolutely get what you pay for, and so on.
Follow all this & you will find legitimate contractor.
Wish you were in Winnipeg so I could help you!
Hope this helped somewhat and best of luck!
In the 20% club!
Thank you for your advice.
It is in fact very difficult to convict a bad contractor but it is not entirely impossible. As the number of renovation scams is rising, things are getting done to correct this at least to some degree although very slowly.
There are cases when contractors are convicted and fined for the poor job they have done. Here is one of the cases from Huntsville, Ontario about a contractor Doug Barber and his company DDB. He was fined $25K in restitution plus monthly payments of $167. Here is the story: https://www.canadiancontractor.ca/canadian-contractor/ontario-contractor-convicted-unfair-practice/1003280259/
In Ontario, a verbal contract is as valid as a written one. Here is one of the links (there are numerous on the subject): https://www.thespec.com/shopping-story/6227544-legal-matters-are-verbal-agreements-legally-binding-/
I entered into a verbal agreement and now I am in a dispute with the other party. Do I have any legal rights if my agreement is not in writing?
An unwritten contract is as valid as a written contract; its existence is just much more difficult to prove.
Difficult is not impossible especially if one party documents everything.
The problem is that this field is not regulated like electricians or gas technicians, so anyone who watched a couple of YouTube videos how to install tiles can declare themselves the tile setters.
There is Ontario College of trades established in 2009 (here is the link: https://www.collegeoftrades.ca/). Its mandate among others is: Protecting the public interest through investigation and discipline mechanisms. It is hated by some contractors because it introduces licensing and at least some rules into the minefield of renovation business. Yes it is a very slow process but at least it is moving forward, at whatever speed.
The arrogance, impunity, scam and fraud in renovation business must stop. It won't happen tomorrow but we are getting there although slowly. I am left with no other choice but to take this guy to court unless he miraculously refunds my money before that.
In the mean time, I need someone in that 20% category to fix his sh@t.
Hi Natalia, I'm very sorry to hear you've been taken like this. Like Derek I'm not local to you so can't directly be of more support, but I do care that this has happened. Definitely the Mike Holmes list is a key benchmark, but that ship has sailed on this one.
I suggest you continue to be vocal about this to generate as much awareness as you can. Register a complaint with your local BBB. Go back to the lead source that provided the contact source and complain. Name him and shame him. Speak with any/all of your local media and explain what happened. Be the advocate for others that you could have used. Speak to Canadian Contractor magazine. They're very proactive about shaming low lifes like this. I'm even aware of Reality TV shows that pounce on these guys. Shame is a powerful tool in these days of social media. But don't over exaggerate anything either. What is his name and contact info. Do these things and you will feel strong. And look forward.
Thank you for your great post, Les!
This guy was recommended to me by a family friend. Not the first time that I used someone recommended by a friend and ended up in the mess.
Trust me, I tried it all: the cheapest guy, the most expensive guy, in the middle guy, recommended guy, yellow book guy, newspapers guy. I tried all of them, using all the sources available to me under the Sun. I ended up with the same: shameless liars, fraud, mess, everything each of them did had to be re-done, things got stolen from me; some of them just like Mike Homes wrote were outright dangerous.
From my experience, recommendations, the price range mean nothing. It's pure luck or lack of it so to speak. I guess my "luck" was that all these guys were in the 70/10 percentile of bad and ugly categories. It's hard to find someone representing 20%.
The last one, this guy, I treated him like my son. He was recommended by a family friend. "Do you want coffee? Here it is. Are you hungry? Here is the food. Here is a snack for you. Do you want me to order a pizza for you? Any time just tell me. Take a brake, you are not my slave"... and yet... Perhaps I was too nice to him.
He knew all about my renovation experiences and shamed all the previous guys and promised to do a great job (in writing) yet he is the worst of them. The others at least finished the job, badly, but finished. This one got paid and left saying he simply doesn't have time to finish my project. I don't even know how to call it. Arrogance is not strong enough word to describe it.
I will first offer him a peaceful resolution of the problem, but if that won't work (the arrogant people usually don't voluntarily agree on things they don't like) then the legal and other ways you described is the only way.
I agree with you approach of a negotiated settlement as the best first course of action. Maybe having the relative that gave the recommendation can be involved in finding aan agreeable solution. Sit down together - away from the project. Put everything in writing, including scope, dollar values, and dates. Both parties sign it and get a witness signature if you can.
Wishing you speedy success. Cheers
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