Desperate for help after being ripped-off with renovation.
by Homebody in Calgary 10 months ago
This is the last thing I ever thought I would be doing but I am out of ideas and desperate for help. I have permanent medical disabilities and get by on a pension. Calgary is too big and stressful for me and I found a house in a small town to the North that needed some renovations. The plan was to renovate and move into the house, then do a clean up on the condo in Calgary and sell it. Instead, the contractor I was dealing with ripped out wiring and pipes for the copper, took my cash and left me with a money pit. I’ve managed to get a few things done but not much and I am not capable of doing it myself. The quotes I have received for work border on extortion and those giving good quotes never show up to do the work. Some of what has been done is incorrect and that has made things worse. I have been searching for drywallers with no success and I also need to have the bathroom pipes replaced and fixtures installed, wiring done, lights installed, etc. The financing that was to be temporary is rapidly using up the money I borrowed for the renovations and if it continues much longer I will not be able to finish or afford to live in it.
I have filed complaints with the City and Province about the contractor, am working on filing suit as well, but none of that helps me recoup my losses or get the job finished. If there is a group out there that helps people in this situation, I haven’t found it.
After 4 months the house doesn’t even have plumbing and the only water is from an outside tap.
The stress of all of this is exacerbating my health issues and I am starting to fall apart.
I know there are honest, knowledgeable trades out there and if any of you would be able to assist me, you would literally be saving the roof over my head.
Thank you for reading this.
by Mark in Toronto 10 months ago
Hi Bridget -
I’m don’t know that I can’t offer any help or advice, but I just wanted to express my shock and sympathy for your situation. That is absolutely horrible and I thought that the least I could do is reply and acknowledge your post.I can say that I’ve had very good luck with high rated companies on Homestars (in Toronto). I’d suggest looking for a general contractor in your area. It may cost you a bit more (and I appreciate finances is an issue) but they can coordinate the trades (plumbing, electrician, drywaller, painters, etc) and save you a lot of stress – your health is more important than the money. I find that companies with 10 ratings are often too busy to take on jobs in a timely manner but even companies in the 9 range are often able to complete work in reasonable timelines.
You may also want to contact the media or a home reno show (those are long shots, but your story will resonate with people and they may be able to help you in one way or another).
Best of luck
by Homebody in Calgary 10 months ago
Thanks for your note Mark. Much as I would love to be able to hand it off to a contractor, there isn’t enough money to finish the renovation now, so adding an extra 20% or more is impossible. The money for the deck is gone already, so because it’s a split-level the dining room doors will open into mid-air, flooring for the lower level is gone, the 4 smashed windows may have to be covered over for this winter, and the broken front door may have to stay also. There is a huge amount of damaged or missing stucco that there are no funds to fix and the 7 windows and garden door that were installed incorrectly will probably have to be left that way.
I contacted Habitat For Humanity to see if they knew of any trades that were reasonably priced that might assist me, but they never even responded. I also emailed the 2 Consumer reporting people that operate locally and never heard back. I even checked Mike Holme’s website, but they are only interested in houses in Toronto. Given the multitude of people having the same problems across the country, there is a desperate need for somewhere to go that is able to do more to help than pass out a few brochures.
Thanks again for the response.
by Cowtown homeowner 10 months ago
It is too bad that contractors do this to people but it’s important that the public does their due diligence upfront with who they are hiring. A contractor needs to be city licensed and if they are taking any money upfront, must also be provincially licensed. To get a provincial license, they must be bonded and go through a fairly rigorous application process. You should always sign a detailed contract before the work begins and check out references.
Did any of these things exist with the contractor you hired?
It’s good you have reported it and hopefully you can recoup some of your money. Other than filing a complaint, I’m not sure there’s anything else you can do. The construction industry is stable right now and good trades will cost money for quality work. They have to make a living and running a proper business with licenses, bonds and insurance is expensive.
Generally, a quality contractor will not be the least expensive and have some credibility to back them up, like good reviews on Homestars :)
by Homebody in Calgary 10 months ago
I verified the city license and made sure he had insurance at the outset but was unaware of the Provincial requirement until after. He was sent to me by an organization that gives people a leg up by training them to make cabinetry and I was told he was one of their instructors. Because I had been a supporter of this group for many years, I trusted them and believed what I was told. They provided the reference and I assumed that they would have vetted him thoroughly before working with him. When I went back to them, they said they were shocked, but couldn’t distance themselves from the situation fast enough. At that point they said he hadn’t been an instructor for a year or more but is a good customer. It also turned out that my cabinet (I only ever got the shell) never even came from them. Because of my health issues I was leery of getting it wrong, so I went to an organization that was involved in the industry and supposedly all about helping people.
His quote was not inexpensive by any means, yet failed to disclose an additional 35% profit/overhead charge on top of the entire job – including GST. That is on top of the $55 per hour he told me he charged. Not legal, but when they’ve already got the cash they can make up whatever they want about what it was used for and then just refuse to provide receipts.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s just too bad it doesn’t come with a reset button.
by TD in Calgary 9 months ago
We’re so very sorry this has happened to you, too, Homebody, and we hate to tell everyone, but even doing extra “due diligence” doesn’t necessarily help the consumer in Calg & area. We did more than anyone else we know has, to try and protect our best interests, but it hasn’t helped as much as you’re led to believe it will.
We’d hired a second reno contractor (had to part ways & settle accounts with a first, quite publicly-known one who also charges an exorbitant, undisclosed 40% profit margin). This 2nd contractor even finished getting his provincial Service Alberta licensing (which, btw, only covers up to $25K loss at the most, same as Provincial Court, vs. Court of Queen’s Bench) because we asked for it before signing on, plus passed all the other usual checks, including our talking to several references and having a detailed contract (which WE mainly drafted ourselves & ran past our lawyer first), is registered with the BBB, has $5 mil. in (verified) liability insurance, etc. Sounded like a pretty safe bet…but NOT.
BOTH of these companies have had fancy booths at the Home Show for more than one year, and both had no bad reviews posted about them AT THE TIME. However,later we found some very telling ones that echoed our own bad experiences, but these came too late for us to avoid signing on with each of them.
So despite all our pre-contract work/research and seeming “good standing” of these contractors, we still got taken royally for many thousands of dollars when the 2nd guy quit the job half-way through, and he even expected MORE money after the fact. He’s not interested so far in settling accounts out of court, won’t provide a proper accounting on anything already paid for, and is ignoring the professional, independent, expert report we got that valued his co’s work (using industry standards + average mark-up) and clearly shows he did almost nothing to account for what we’d paid to date, and much of it done incorrectly besides, thus requiring complete re-do’s now. His workers also damaged existing items of ours, but he has ignored &/or denied the worst of that, too. We’d tried our best to accommodate his company’s many deficiencies in order to get the job done, even doing much of the thinking, detailing, planning and project managing ourselves (though we were paying for all that), but it was all for naught when he quit without any warning, even having the gall to suggest he’d “underbid” our job after WEEKS of negotiating a total price. (that’s one Service Alberta policy infraction right there, from what we’ve researched)
We’d also lost several thousand to an unethical flooring supplier prior to this latest fiasco – also a recommended contact through another renovator & a builder who our former designer worked with, but thankfully we didn’t sign up with them. None of these 3 people would help us recover our money from their OWN supplier, and his store closed soon thereafter, after other creditors first cleaned him out for debts owed. He’d refused to list us with his bankruptcy trust company, and wouldn’t supply their name to us, either, so we lost out due to timing, even after getting a Judgement against him. No one can believe the number of times we’ve gotten ripped off over just one reno job, and neither can we.
Now we have to finish everything off by hiring separate trades ourselves and like you, we’ve found many drywall companies (including several listed on Homestars with glowing reviews) & some other trades don’t even use basic civility to call you back to let you know they’re “too busy.” Or they leave a VM then don’t return your call back to them. Others say they’ll quote, then just don’t, wasting your valuable time waiting on them. Others say they can start by “x” date, then change their minds, ruining your hard-won schedule. Some, of course, are still very good and more honest, but finding them isn’t very easy & takes far more time than you’d expect. Even within the industry, trades themselves tell us there are too many unprincipled folks out there…on all “sides” of the coin. A MoralCompass-O-Meter is what we all really need!
So what no one tells you is that despite your due diligence, often the only way to rectify these rip-offs is to take such companies to court – another pricy proposition that many people can’t afford & better lawyers also wish people to avoid. Yet if renovation companies realized what this costs them, too, in precious time, work, money and reputation, they’d want to avoid that as well. Alberta sorely needs strong, effective consumer protection laws for home renos/building, like some other provinces have already instituted due to the incessant rip-offs occurring out there.
No one really understands what all this does to you unless they’ve gone through it, too. To add insult to injury, often the homeowner then gets unjustifiably pre-labelled as “iffy” to deal with, as if you were the one who did something wrong, and despite your own integrity shown throughout. Meanwhile, you’ve only been forced to become warier out of necessity.
We’ll never again renovate on a larger scale, or allow anyone to demo the bulk of our house all-at-once, this has become such a living nightmare. Yet we’re still itching to be able to write a SUPER-grateful review for some deserving companies &/or independent trades, helping everyone feel good for a change! (at least our new cabinet co. is well on its way to receiving one, they’ve acted so professionally and helpfully to date, as is one tile distributor & one plumbing co. we’d used previously – when we get our lives back & have more time!)
We wish you as much luck & support as we wish for ourselves in finding a way to recover your losses and get your financial, physical, mental and emotional life back. Only wish we could offer you more helpful & hopeful answers than this.
[NOTE: another thing Homestars could do for members is to set up a Private Messaging system for people to utilize, so we can talk to each other & help each other out more as needed; many public forums offer this feature & they work quite well]
by Homebody in Calgary 9 months ago
Thank you so much for your posting, TD. I am sorry for your giant ordeal as well, and appreciate you sharing it. I have been avoiding adding ratings for other companies I have used because they have been terrible as well and I really want to have a company show up and do the work they are being paid to do without making a hash of it and doing more damage to the house. I have found the same with companies having good reputations yet doing a terrible job. I bought drywall 9 days ago and when they tried to deliver last Thursday they brought the wrong truck. Friday I waited all day but it was after 4 when they called to tell me their truck broke down. They promised Tuesday at 4 pm then no-show/no call, despite a whole conversation about me having an appointment with a surgeon so there had to be some extra time in case he was running late. When I talked to them today, the story is that it was booked for today at 4, not yesterday. Except I was never available today. I would not have set it up for Wednesday after they had screwed up 2 consecutive days last week and then made me wait 3 days because of a long weekend. I called to speak to a manager in the morning, had to leave a message and never even got a call back. This is a giant drywall company. Meanwhile the drywallers were supposed to start Thursday night and would have been finished by now. The house is like a revolving door for lookie-lou tradespeople that are there to quote for one thing (like drywall) but when they arrive it turns out they are all ‘contractors’ that ‘have guys’ to do everything needed to finish the job. This inevitably turns into a 3 hour (sometimes longer) walk-through of the entire property while they detail all the many deficiencies and how they can get it all fixed up. They say they will send me a quote in the next couple of days and at least half the time they are never heard from again. Or they don’t show up in the first place. It is very bizarre and frustrating. I don’t know why they waste everybody’s time if they have no intention of following through or are going to give me an outrageous quote and it is really hard not to become jaded. One pair of potential drywallers walked through, never asked for measurements or took out a tape then sent me a one line quote a few hours later for $8000 plus all materials. Higher than the last quote I’d had that included all materials – I would have gone with them but the contractor they came with was the one that ruined my windows and I wasn’t able to get the company name. Another guy spent 4 hours looking at the drywall then said he just charges an hourly rate of $30. Neighbourhood feedback confirmed my suspicion about the speed of his work. I really wanted to hire a super handyman that came highly recommended by friends and many of their neighbours. He came out twice, did a lot of prep work, gave me a great quote and then disappeared. No idea what happened to him but I left numerous messages over several weeks and zero response. Months of being strung along by unreliable people, start dates that never happened, tanks of gas wasted and every appointment is at least a half day with driving time. The summer is almost over, I was supposed to have moved in 3 months ago but I’m getting nowhere other than broke and at my wits end. Help is non-existent.
I agree that the laws need to be changed and along with it there must be enforcement or it will end up just like what we have now. Crime is committed and nothing is done about it. I’ve had a contractor and a framer separately break into my house. I was told I can’t do anything about it because they had worked on property at one time. I hadn’t given either of them keys but that didn’t stop them. I filed a complaint with the City months ago and after weeks and weeks they told me to deal with the Province. Over a month since it was assigned to somebody and not a word so far. Since I haven’t got nearly enough financing left to finish the house, I have zero to put toward a lawyer which leaves me with going to Provincial (small claims) Court to try for $25,000 and giving up on everything over that amount (which I can’t afford and would still have to repay to the bank, plus years of interest payments), or I’d have to pass on small claims altogether and somehow get to Crown Court. This would cost me yet more money that I don’t have and then even if I secured a big fat judgement, may never get a dime back. It’s quite a system set up to ‘protect’ the public. It’s becoming a struggle to not be angry inside a lot of the time. I talk to friends much less because everything I have to report is negative and I don’t want to dump on them. I don’t socialize anymore because I don’t have the energy or focus to spare and can’t calm the anxiety for more than a few minutes at a time.
To top it all off, the leak he caused in the shower of the condo has damaged the bathroom subfloor and the inside of the walls, so I will have to find somebody to re-renovate there instead of just finishing the job.
The situation looks very bleak when it’s in print, but it is my reality.
I wish you very good luck in your renovations, and hope you are able to find great people that do excellent work at a reasonable rate.
great quote or somebody has a specific experience with the company to share, I would like to be able to read it. That would save a lot of time and trouble for everybody.)
by Homebody in Calgary 9 months ago
Not sure what happened to the last part, so I will retype it.
(Note: I agree that the PM feature would be very handy indeed. I also would like to see the rating system expanded to include other experiences with companies. For example, if I got a really good quote from a company (verifiable by Homestars) I could rate them on the experience with the staff and the quote itself as compared to others. If I am considering dealing with a company, I would like to read about experiences that others have had if they care to share them. Having some of this info could save a lot of time and trouble for everybody by weeding the pool down further. Also, I would like the ability to go back and edit/correct/delete prior postings that I have made but that is not an option on this site.)
by TD in Calgary 9 months ago
We’re familiar with that horrible “reality,” too. Your former life totally disappears with this kind of trouble, and friends & family begin to shy away when nothing starts going better for you after a time. Bad contractors leave wrecked lives in their wake, but don’t care.
And we know the System isn’t set up to benefit those who really need help or have been ripped off. Equally ridiculous, this also applies to tradespeople, who have their own stories of other contractors, tradespeople, suppliers or sometimes consumers ripping them off as well, although it’s not often for as MUCH money – e.g. $4K for them, vs. $50K or more for the consumer. And yet, you get to hear how angry THEY are, but homeowners aren’t “allowed” to express the same or no one wants to work for them. Another unfair double standard no one wants to recognize or address.
We even met another tradesperson who’d also been ripped off by the same flooring company we’d been taken by, too. That scoundrel has apparently opened about 4-5 new stores in Calg. over the last few years (changes the business name just slightly), each time declaring bankruptcy after taking people’s/trades’ money, and getting away with it every time. All such examples we’ve heard over the last year only make one more & more fearful of this entire marketplace & “rolling w/the punches” becomes harder & harder to do. And when you’re not allowed to even post their full name, that only exacerbates the entire problem and makes it easier for them to repeat their crimes & ruin more lives. Meanwhile, we’ve never not paid someone (so aren’t as “risky” as those in their own industry!), so why are homeowners the ones who take the fall?
We’ve also hired trades who did good, smaller jobs, but aren’t hearing back from them for more work we’d like from them now. Inexplicably, either the job is “too small,” or “too large” or “not large enough” (working for a big developer, as most do here), so you can’t find anybody for which it’s “just right,” Goldilocks.
We’re also hearing that because of the continuing “good economy” here, the fly-by-nighters are coming back in droves again, yet some very large, established companies have suddenly gone under at the same time, too. It’s a MESS out there, and pat answers to just “do this and do that and you should be okay” don’t cut it anymore.
A useful tip, though — don’t ever take out home insurance from a BANK, vs. a strictly-insurance company. We’ve also been ripped off & had the screws put to us by a bank-based insurance co. who is doing things regular ins. co’s DON’T do, all when we can least afford any added expense or stress.
As to your last post, I’d agree — a concurrent or separate place for reviewing quotes (unpaid for work) & basic experiences could save consumers a LOT of added time and effort when we’re stressed enough already. We also simply need MORE consumer review sites like Homestars, and definitely some that are more western Canada oriented as well. (not sure if we’re allowed to post here names of other such sites we’ve found useful…perhaps Admin. could answer to this?)
And while you don’t seem to be able to edit or delete previous postings on the forums, you CAN do that for actual reviews you’ve posted to Homestars, through your Dashboard.
We wish you the very best of GOOD luck for a change, too, in getting your own reno woes rectified by some decent trades who have fully-functioning and more altruistic consciences.
by firstname.lastname@example.org in Windsor 9 months ago
Hi Bridget, I can feel your pain, I’ve had a similar experience.
My story is below.Real Choice Realty Windsor Ltd. Rip Off Nightmare
Real Choice Realty Windsor Ltd.
11886 Tecumseh Rd E, Suite 3
Windsor, ON, N8N 3C2
In May of 2011, Mr. Rick Rose and I made an agreement for him to do some renovations on my property, including plumbing.
I paid him and his helper over $4000.00 to do the job. I am not satisfied with the services provided because the plumbing was not done correctly and I continue to have leaking pipes. Mr. Rose has tried to fix the problem but it has not been fixed properly.
I cannot speak to Mr. Rose because he has an answering service and does not answer his phone, I have left messages but now he longer returns my phone calls.
I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau but he called and said that he had changed the name of the company and he would not respond to the complaint, afterwards he did respond with a bunch of lies but refused to have the matter mediated.
The name change is nothing but a ploy to continue to rip people off; he refused to give me proper receipts for the money that I paid but I insisted and he did write receipts, so I do have proof of some of the money I paid.
The name change is being used to hoodwink other unsuspecting consumers to their detriment.
He has refused to refund any of the money, I am out thousands of dollars because of this scam.
I would not like anyone else to experience this nightmare.
Beware and avoid this company because you will regret it.
by Homebody in Calgary 9 months ago
Hi again TD. I would love to know what other feedback sites there are, as I’ve not found any. I don’t know what the policy of Homestars is, but not sure why they would mind.
Even the insurance that the contractors hold is not worth the paper it’s written on. I have checked about filing a claim and told that even though damage was done, they’re not interested. Plus I have a copy of the policy but not the number, so ‘they wouldn’t be able to find it’. So ha ha on the homeowner that bothers to get a copy just in case something happens.
The electrician I used to correct some of the damage hasn’t responded to emails about questions that the Electrical Inspector had. This isn’t good, since he didn’t update the electrical panel and if I have to hire somebody else to finish the job they will have to re-test every circuit in the place. There was an outlet with bare wires left in place and somebody was electrocuted last weekend. Could have been me since I was prepping that area just before it happened. The breaker listed as covering that area did nothing when I shut it off. No response to the email asking about that either. So here’s another professional that was paid almost $5000 for work that wasn’t done properly and now is not responding. If he does respond and he comes back to fix whatever is at issue, no doubt he will expect to be compensated for this and that is where I leave the apple cart because I think it is completely unethical for somebody to screw something up, get paid for it and then expect to be paid again if they do it over. Yet bringing it up only seems to get me treated as if I am the problem. When the wiring was being done I said that I only wanted Cat-5 wire run. What I got was Coaxial cable EVERYWHERE. When I said that it isn’t what I wanted, he then ran Cat-5 along side the cable. Charged me for all of it, of course, including the coax that was left in place. I didn’t argue about it because I no longer trust that they won’t do something horrible that will lead to terrible problems later on. I’ve heard so many stories about milk under hardwood floors, or shrimp in walls that added to my own experiences, I trust none of these people anymore. The financial rip-offs are only one aspect of how low some people sink.
I agree that more Western Canadian oriented options are needed along with the added options for leaving feedback. I think that it would be good to be able to add contact info on companies as well. If there’s a file on Jo Blow that doesn’t have an address, and I know the address, I should be able to add it in for the person that just might need it.
Good luck to you in your quest to have the job finished and get whatever money you can back from these companies.