Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

She was a single woman on a disability pension, ripped off by a contractor

Canadian Contractor

Despicable conduct keeps renovation industry near the top of consumer complaint lists

In a recent on-line posting, Nicole Silver of TrustedPros listed comprehensive warnings for consumers who might consider engaging cash-only or underground contractors. The risks include, as we all know, the potential lack of worker and liability insurance, or a legitimate contract for recourse in case of dispute.

Despite efforts to educate the public by provincial consumer ministries and referral companies like TrustedPros, the problem of shady operators persists and appears regularly in the media. As an industry, Canadian home builders and renovators themselves have a role to play in reducing the heartache that often results when naive consumers link with unscrupulous operators. For every rip-off made public, there are dozens that go unreported to either authorities or the media, like this one provided to Canadian Contractor by TrustedPros (we have chosen to paraphrase rather than publish the full first-person complaint, out of respect for the homeowner’s privacy):

“They claimed they were registered, legitimate, knowledgeable contractors with a tax number. This turned out to be a lie.”

The homeowner was single woman living on a small disability income. Hired to do renovations on her home, it became quickly obvious they were not competent. In addition to the damage done to walls, damage to the building’s electrical wiring was so substantial that an electrical inspector shut the power off for four months until rectified. The homeowner also alleges that personal property was stolen. Even so, after being dismissed and the homeowner had subsequent repairs made to the house, the contractor continued to leave invoices on the porch for their shoddy work, and made aggressive personal visits and phone calls seeking payment. The repairs alone ultimately cost $10,000, the personal items were never recovered, and a year passed before the home was restored. The contractor had no tax numbers (although they claimed otherwise), and asked for payments to be made by cheque in favour of an individual, not a corporate entity.


Scammers use all sorts of methods to lure their prey. For example, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in the Upper Ottawa Valley recently received a number of fraud complaints from consumers targeted by social media sites, offering services such as renovations, lawn care, yard work and odd jobs. It’s almost never-ending!

scamsRenovations and repairs stand with bad company
In fact, figures from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services (2013) indicate that ‘home renovations and repairs’ ranks #3 in consumer complaints received, just behind ‘collection agencies’ and ‘water heater rental sales and removal’. Not good company to keep! And when the media latches on to a contractor scam or horror story, it hurts the entire industry, no matter what the legal outcome of the individual case.

What can you do? Lots of explaining!
When submitting a proposal or visiting a prospective client for an initial inspection of work being considered, take the time to explain why you, as a legitimate operator, operate the way you do. Talk about the safety precautions you undertake, your credentials, the insurance you provide on the worksite, the detailed contract you will sign, and the method of payment you require and when it should be paid. Emphasize that you pay your taxes, can supply references from past work, and that you take pride in the work you do.

The home building and renovation industry needs more positive outcomes. That requires all involved becoming proactive in the consumer education process.

follow John on Twitter @john_bleasby



Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.