Magazine for professional home renovators.

I am presently going through a renovation nightmare… and the contractors have done the midnight move on me and left.

A homeowner, Kris N., posted her renovation horror story on our site four days ago. All comments welcome. Maybe even an offer of help, if you feel inclined?

“I have not had any experience with Mike Holmes, and I have only seen a few of his shows. I am presently going through a renovation nightmare and the film “The Money Pit” would be a good summation of what is happening. I have truly paid too much money and been double charged for shabby, incomplete work and the contractors have done the midnight move on me and have left.

The house is completely gutted with a partial second floor done and the basement dug down and is unfinished. My daughter and I have been out of the house since October, but work on the basement started in June and was done in July- this was subcontracted out and the job was done well and quickly and the people were great. The contractors did a gut job on the house, but soon got disenchanted once the building of the space began. By mid November, they had slowed down and they no longer had interest in being in the house, but had asked for money to keep going.

Many of the workers that had been at the house to do work- plumbers, roofing, framing and others- would agree that I was a good client and not demanding or difficult- I tried my best to be fair and trust that the work was going in the right direction.

Once I started questioning more and more the work done and the amount of money given, I could feel the change and animosity from the contractors. When the contractors stopped calling me and I was still dropping by the house just to see that they were leaving at 3 pm for the day, my gut knew that something was brewing. The evening I opened my door to see everything gone – right down to the screws, pencils and sandpaper –  I knew and my heart sank.

I am now dealing with a house that is unliveable, my daughter someplace where I see very little of her (I work early shifts which would leave her alone and she is very young) but at least she has some stability, and my financial picture looking like I may have to sell the house.

There are many factors which are not written, but I am a single mom and the house was my mother’s and literally caving in while we were living there – my hand was forced to either fix or sell. The contractors were not cheap and I had spoken to others who had work done by them and saw their places. Looking back, I can say that the work was sloppy and incomplete, but the contractors covered it up with being nice and saying that it was better than what they had before and people accepted this.

The recourse for contractors like this still doesn’t completely stop them from doing this to other people. They take on work and for whatever reason, can justify why they left and should keep the money. If Mike Holmes can expose and shame some of these people, then he has done a good thing. These contractors are crooks first, regardless of their work experience or quality. There is something wrong with people like this who take pride in their poor work and make the client feel stupid and guilty of ever questioning them.

My fault was I looked past the red flags and my gut instinct – I trusted that people are basically good and would do their part when given a job and an agreement was made. I am scared and unsure of who can do the work in my house because of my financial picture, but I need a home for my daughter and I to live in – we need to be together again.These contractors knew what they were doing to us this at Xmas, and that what makes this more painful. Contractors who do this for a living are crooks and offer nothing good to this world, despite their talents.”

Posted by Kris N. on Dec. 30, 2013

Posted by
Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
26 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. If Kris is in the Greater Toronto area, I am sure that one of our Certified Renovantage Contractors could help her get her project completed. Given her experience, I am sure that our Performance Guarantee will help give her peace of mind.

  2. Sorry to hear your trouble Kris. This story is an on going concern in our industry. Contracting By Us prides its self on quality, on time and on budget. Contracting By Us was voted Best General Contractor for 2012 and Best Basement Renovator in 2011 by Homestars.com . Feel free to contact us at 905-616-1628, perhaps we can help?

  3. Hey Kris, hate to hear this stuff happening, where are you located?

  4. The reality is that deadbeats – whether they be contractors or clients – walk among us!
    Unfortunately, you may not have the resources – money and time – to sue to get your money back.
    Your immediate recourse is to do the following, at minimum
    i. Get in touch with the “consumer complaints/protection” section within your provincial government and lodge a formal complaint.
    ii. Contact the Better Business Bureau so that there is a formal record on file.
    iii. Go to reviews sites and write a review of the work that your contractors did. It should serve as a warning to all other homeowners.
    You can also drop me a line – alex.beraskow@myreno411.ca – and I can see what else can be done.
    The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. If they are bandits they will keep pulling the same stunts unless you get the word out.

  5. What are the names of the company and the individuals you dealt with?

    • This is actually a very good idea henry !
      WE have no problem letting people know who the good guys are do we ?
      why shouldn’t we put out all points bulletin on these types of guys ?
      Call it what you may snitching ? ratting ? gossip ?
      Granted , there are 3 parts to a story , the customers , the “contractor ” ( if in fact they are ), and the truth
      If someone vacates a project with out verbal or written notice, they automatically have a huge strike against them !
      I have never once heard any mention of the wrongdoer contractors that these Mike Holmes type shows are based on !!
      Luckily , for the people in my relatively tight knit community … if someone were to do these types of things here , the news travels rather quickly on a verbal basis .
      In a giant metropolitan setting .such as toronto ( where i was born and raised ) …these guys get to dodge ,”come out of the wash ” if you will , and resurface in a another place , and restart the dirty process all over again!
      maybe a medium such as this could be used in a process blacklisting these undesirables .
      Just think , if the newspapers and other related media would have used half of the resources they used on the Rob Ford witch hunt on actually helping people ,instead, ….these cases would certifiably start to diminish substantially!

  6. Kris I hate to hear this, makes our industry look bad. If you are in the GTA I am willing to talk to you about donating our management services . You can pay out the trades directly so you can get your project completed and done right.
    Hopefully I can be of help .

  7. Kris, you should talk to people that you trust to get the name of a reputable business that does what you need done. Forward them a copy of your original contract, and between the you and them, design a contract you are satisfied with, with perhaps clearer statements of intention. . That will at least set the scene for anyone new you would have come in to discuss what happened with your situation. I keep hearing of this type of issue, but rarely is the written aspect up to snuff. Good lock and God bless

  8. As asked by many; where is this house located?

  9. Hi Everyone and Thanks for all your suggestions…
    I am presently writing up a letter of complaint and will submit it to the Ontario government office and also with the BBB and maybe some web sites which are reliable and legit- I would hate to see others go through this like I am right now…

    I am located in Central East area of Toronto – I am in a bit of a tailspin about all of this and am a little gun shy about who can I trust to do the work and not have the same thing again happen again- I know there are good contractors out there and I can see that it is not so easy of a task to regulate this industry…

    Thanks again- Kris N

  10. Hi Kris
    I get a lot of calls and e mail with people in your situation and have a team of trusted Renovators in my contact list. If you are interested in a free 1 hour consultation about your project and how The Reno Coach can help send me a e mail or call.
    Thx
    Reiner

  11. Hello Kris, I am a contractor and I want you to know that some of us take pride in the work we do and our reputation is very important to us.
    If you will supply the materials needed, I am willing to volunteer my personal labour for some of the projects that need to be done, during my downtime.
    If you feel that I may be able to help, even in a small way, please let me know and we can discuss it. Thanks for your time.

    David

  12. It would be great if you can provide the company name and the names of the contractors for all his piers to know.
    You mentioned you are located east GTA; so like David, I would be willing to volunteer my labor for some of it when I can.

  13. I can volunteer some time as well. Kris, feel free to contact me with specifics on your progress and schedule etc.

    Adam

  14. Renovation nightmares are unfortunately still too common. Despite industry intent (as evidenced here in the comments section), homeowners remain dazed & confused about the process.

    I feel for you Kris, while I didn’t experience all that you did, I was “less than pleased” with the process of my own main floor gut and remodel.

    It bothered me so much that I turned my client experience training and coaching business toward the home renovation market. To help those good contractors, trades and suppliers rise above the homeowner confusion that is still so prevalent in the home reno industry so they could help their clients have a “win” in this exchange.

    Kris, I wish you success with this challenging project. You’re in good hands with the offers of support listed above.

    To contractors reading this post, I humbly offer you this:
    In every line of a story like this, there lay an opportunity for you to look within and see how your business helps homeowners understand and get through the reno process. I wish you all tremendous business success (and sanity).

    Catherine @ The JoyfulProfit Movement

  15. My elderly and obstinate husband hired a barely competent handyman “Terry” to renovate a tiny rental house. The job should have lasted a few weeks and cost $5000.00. 7 months and over $100,000.00 later Terry was finally fired for his extreme incompetence, pathological lying, drunkenness and using our accounts at 3 home reno stores as his personal source for cash and items to sell for drugs. So angry is Terry at his “unfair” dismissal that he harassed and stalked us, legitimate employees and our tenant. The OPP can’t do anything.

    The whole job had to be fixed by an actual contractor at great expense. We could have built a larger house from the ground up for much less.

    This nightmare could have been avoided. The first week Terry obviously needed to be fired immediately when promised work was never completed. There is never a good reason to continue employing a psycho who keeps promising “just one more week”.

    No references were sought and no contracts were signed. He is driving a truck in Calgary now but he will be back in Ontario soon looking for another “gravy job” as he likes to call us.

  16. We just had our contractor walk off the job on Jan 2nd 2014, also once we started questioning some of the work he had done. We have had 3 contractors come by for estimates on completing the work and all three say the shower base needs to be gutted and done properly. We live in a small town and not in the GTA, one would think these things don’t happen here, but there are unethical people everywhere. I got this contractors name from an ad placed in the local paper. When I called the paper to let them know what the business they advertise for did. I was told they can’t take my word for it and continue to run his ad. I would think a newspaper would do a little investigating, ie just contact the Ontario College of Trades and see he is not registered, or call the Ontario business license office and see his business license has expired. All things I have done and found out since he walked off the job. These contractors get away with it because they can, the system in place allows for it.

  17. Didi, I am sorry to hear of your bad experience. There are unfortunately crooked/ bad people in almost all industries. Unfortunately the construction industry gets more than their share. This is partly because it is easy to pick up a skill saw and call yourself a “contractor” and look for work as a “contractor” when one gets laid off their real job. You loose your job, you can’t become a dentist, or a cop, a lawyer, or what ever; but you can easily enough call yourself a contractor.
    I, like a lot of my colleagues have been in this industry since college (over 25 years) and have seen the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly”; even in the small town I live in (north of Oshawa).
    There are a lot of good contractors out there; just like there is a lot of good mechanics and cops and lawyers. You just have to find them (then hold on to them).
    All the best.

  18. While Mike Holmes has been quoted as saying that 20% of contractors are good and the remaining 80% are bad or ugly, he is probably too harsh in that assessment. The reality however is that “they” do walk among us.

    While it is difficult to fix the “past” much can be done about the present and future of home renovation, to curtail bad renovations. It is a jungle out there – a $70+ billion industry in Canada. More government regulation and oversight is not the answer, given that we operate in a market economy.

    First, homeowners need to be better informed: the process, the risks, and the management of it all including best practices. Good home renovation is not happenstance. It requires participation throughout. It means making informed decisions.

    Second, homeowners need to know who is good and who is suspect – in the jungle. That means that homeowners should write reviews – on the good ones as much as the bad ones. In time the market will sort itself out. The bad ones will wither on the vine with no work, or upgrade their work.

    Things have to change. The status quo will remain so it we all stay as spectators.

  19. Just a horrible situation but it seems as if there has been some good advice given. The problem is that the bad contractors are just so darn good at strategizing how they can take advantage of a situation and milk the homeowner for every possible dollar while getting away with it. And to make it even worse they know how to work around or just barely within the laws which were originally designed to “protect” the homeowner and prevent this from happening. You can read about our similar situation/nightmare on our blog at http://www.morningsiderenovation.com .

  20. Just to update how things are going with my house… My daughter and I are still out of the house and apart – the house has not been touched since Dec and I am trying to find builder’s risk insurance to cover the house ( now I deal with the insurance industry and must decipher their lingo ) – the contractors are asking for more $$ for work not done and to cover the HST they say that they did not charge me and are wanting to place a lien on the house- I am now seeing a lawyer about this situation and to try and stop the demands for more money from these people- this is all very frustrating, but I understand that this normally would not happen, especially to this extent- I thank everyone for their offers and suggestions and will look into those options once this gets sorted out- I do not want any further trouble happening once I start work on the house again…
    One day at a time…
    Thanks- Kris.

    • Hi Kris, go to this site http://www.collegeoftrades.ca/ and verify if the contractor that did work in your home is registered / licensed to have done the work. All plumbing, electrical, HVAC / gas lines must be done by licensed trades. Report them if they are not, this is the first step in stopping these contractors from continuing to spam us home owners.

  21. Kris n. You told my story. I am living in limbo. My home was destroyed by contractors. The work is extremely sloppy and incomplete. Like you, a few months into the project my gut told me something was brewing.

  22. BEWARE OF (name withheld).” He is not registered, and his work is sloppy. He came out to Oshawa and has destroyed two staircases in my home, as well as the basement flooring.
    My home is 1700sqfeet. He charged us $4000 to put all the baseboards on, to put down hardwood on two staircases, to put laminate down on the basement floor, and to frame an extra room in the basement. We paid him about $3100 before he walked off the job. We started questioning the work he was doing as the hardwood was shifting on the stairs, and so were the laminate floors. He used DAP instead of mud on the walls of the new room that he had created, and when we asked him to tape the corners he got upset and said that he was overwhelmed.
    Does anyone know of any honest and hardworking contractors out there who could finish this job at a reasonable price?? We need the laminate floors fixed, the stairs fixed with veneers that we went out and bought, and the walls mudded and sanded. I don’t see how this kind of job could have overwhelmed an experienced contractor.
    We then asked another contractor to take a look, and he’s quoting us another $2000 to fix the problem. Really need help with this.

    Again, stay away from (name withheld). Never trust a man with a gold tooth in his head.

  23. Add me to the list of disenfranchised, we started a 500 square foot addition september of 2013. Got the runaround starting in November, costs went up, hours of work went lower, foundation failed inspection, membrane fell off block, fired contractor in April after 2 weeks I took off work to help dig and underpin to save money I let him convince me that he was going through help issues and could do it right, paid part of the holdback, and he redid work, and it failed again. Now I can’t get anyone to come out and finish, and I’m stuck. I live in Sudbury ontario, 4 hours north of the GTA
    Joe

  24. I am going through the same kind of nightmare. My daughter bought her first house in January, and to say it’s a fixer-upper is a major understatement. She’s gotten quite a bit of work done, and been very happy with it, until it was time to do the basement. My husband and I agreed to finance her reno so she could have a solid, dry basement. The walls were damp and moldy, and every time it rained, her basement would get leak. We hired a contractor who assured us he would treat it like his own home, and do it once, and do it right. We have now paid him $14,000 and have an indoor waterfall every time it rains. He did not complete approximately 1/2 the work, and what he did was shoddy and unprofessional. He even poured a concrete pad in the middle of her driveway with the extra concrete from the basement because he thought she could build a shed on it. He never asked and now she has to remove it before winter so she can park on her driveway. We are out of funds, and my only option is to pursue this in small claims court. It is a shame that so many excellent contractors are lumped in with someone like this who was obviously out to make a fast buck, and takes no pride in his work. I now have to find a couple of contractors who would be willing to look at what was supposed to be done, and give me an estimate as to what it would cost to finish. Hopefully, if small claims court is successful, I will be able to hire someone to do it right. Otherwise, it’s duct tape and DIY!!

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