Canadian Contractor

We banned the interfering owner from our site and liened him for $230,000

Contractor Greg Miller sent us this recollection about the ultimate "Interfering Client From Hell." Greg says that his apparently abusive Nightmare Client insisted that stairs be installed backwards after the site super had left, tried to get the framer and Greg's crew to drink with him on the job, creating various grotesque safety violations before running out of money and "cancelling our contract so he could have the upper hand in his peers' minds."


August 18, 2014
By Steve Payne

Last year, we asked for contractors’ stories about “Clients Who Want To Pitch In” (to supposedly save themselves some money). Alberta-based contractor Greg Miller sent us the latest horror story post over the weekend. Here it is…

“We recently had a duplex build. A very large, three-level-plus-basement project totalling 7,600 sq.ft. – plus an 1,100 sq.ft. bay garage. The 70-year-old owner of the redevelopment insisted on working along with our crew. We gave in.

“After years of being a mine manager up north, he believed he knew everything better than us. He redirected the crew to install the temporary stairs backwards after our super left. He knew better that we did on the excavation (as he had been in mining), so he insisted the crew shore up the 12′ hole differently than we directed. Then then bank collapsed. No one was hurt. thankfully.

“We finally found out that he was an alcoholic and trying to get the framer sub and our guys to drink with him while working. He was all over the building, doing things like blowing snow off the roof that was 33′ off grade, with an open excavation below that.

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“When I found out about his drinking and connected the dots regarding his perplexing (alcoholic) rages, we checked into the WCB aspect. It turns out in Alberta, we would not be covered at all if he had an accident. Nor would his homeowner insurance cover him as the redevelopment wasn’t his place of residence. Additionally, if one of our workers, for example, was tripped by him and got hurt, WCB would pay the claim but then likely go after us as we allowed the homeowner on a construction site. So if he hurt or killed himself, we could/would be sued. If one of our workers got hurt by him, we would also likely be sued.

“Our guys were pulling their hair out with this guy. I had no choice to issue a letter making it clear that he, his family and his friends were not permitted on the site until completion and keys were handed over. He had also run out of money and, during the same period, we had stopped work as a result. I should mention that when we discussed financials prior to starting, he was insulted that we would infer he might need financing and he told us money was no problem, he didn’t need any… It appeared that saving face to him was paramount – so between us stopping work due to his financial problems (my theory is the BMO loans officers were so insulted by him and his wife that they “lost” the file as retribution for their tirades.) and then banning him from the site, he cancelled our contract so he could have the upper hand in his peers’ minds. We then liened them for $230K.

“Fact was, we were losing money on his job and he did us a favour. Especially as the $50,000 deposit was forfeit for improper cancellation. (It) just weren’t worth the hassle to sum it up. Not only did we have to put up with a difficult client but his being on the job meant we lost income because his presence meant we had one less worker generating revenue.

“From now on, we’re using the WCB guidelines not only to save ourselves from potential litigation, but also to save us the hell non-professionals put us through.”


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