The owner Jason Szutu finished our basement in November 2007. He sends a copy of his so-called contract by email listing the general things to be done along with the estimate after seeing your basement for the first time. His business is through referral. However, many people including myself do not know enough about finishing basements and the contract etc. When you agree to the work and meet him to talk about what exactly you want done etc, he will tell you there is no need to put everything down in the contract or update it, not to worry, he knows what you want done. A friend of the 'referral' is a friend of his. He will appear very nice and friendly etc. And since he is a referral, you will trust him. He does not provide a GST# and does not make you sign or sign the contract himself. Therefore the entire project is done orally and he will ask you for payments by cash. His first down payment is a ridiculously large sum and he will say that he needs this to pay for the materials.
He finishes basements in around two weeks time - just the 2 or 3 of them. He will stress many times how satisfied his previous clients are and how they give him the entire job without looking or watching them at work. How he designed the layout himself and the clients think the outcome is better than they could have imagined it. Bottom line is, he does not want you to come down to watch their work. Reason is they do not do things to code. He does not put down any type of moisture barrier on the floor before laying the hardwood. And he pushes hardwood floors because you will like it and oh how nice and expensive compared to laminate. (However, hardwood is not appropriate for basement use due to moisture.) He will not level your floor as promised. He will tell you he has put insulation on the bottom half of the walls. He will tell you he has put in any sound proofing you may ask for, but he does not. He does not put in the vapour and moisture barriers in the walls as is required by code. The thing is they work so quickly to cover everything up, you don't see what they put behind the walls.
He is known to take down metal poles and doesn't do any type of load compensation. He will tell you (because it's nicer looking) that it's not required etc. Your finished basement won't look too bad - walls and floors are there, the materials he provides for choosing are cheap and not very nice looking but if you're not picky with looks, you settle. You cannot just take down metal poles, they are there for a reason. Done by professional architects. Jason doesn't have any knowledge of this kind. He is not educated and licensed. He is merely a handy man and must've worked as a plumber assistant in training.
His company is not registered, his men are not licensed and insured as he claims. He is not registered with WSIB. His company was registered at one point but has been expired since 2002.
Basically, since there is no written contract, he will short-change you here and there without you knowing. And for the most part, his referrals and previous clients don't even know anything about finishing basements and what is required by code etc. Most people are too busy and do not do the research. They just trust that he will do the right thing. He has a really good and quick young man from China (only speaks Mandarin) who does everything. And an even younger man who is the assitant.
Do not trust this man Jason. He will turn out to be a real jerk once things are going. He will take over your project and do what he wants done. He says 'if I can step into your house to do work, then it's my house'. He builds his basement in your home, not your basement. There is no customer service, and he will not return to service anything after it's done. Except to ask for a referral.
He is being sued right now and denies everything that you ask for orally - pushing his so called contract as proof that you didn't ask for anything else, even though your basement does not look like anything written on his contract.
And please - do not refer him to anyone. Do not let him ruin your friends' basements. If anything hazardous happens and starts from your basement, your home insurance will not be covered because the basement was not done to code.
Also, he will tell you building permits are only for in the case of your neighbours complaining about the noise and garbage. The reason is he does not want the inspectors to come and see that nothing was done to code. And he does not want his work delayed because he can finish basements in 2 weeks. All the contractors I saw after said you cannot finish the basement in 2 weeks - at least not with 2, 3 people.
I lost the court battle yesterday because I was not represented and didn't make a strong enough case. This absolute jerk and his paralegal made false claims from beginning to end. They even brought in a picture of someone else's basement showing insulation from top to bottom and wanted to push that as my basement from the builder. The code now requires basements to be finished with full insulation from top to bottom after December 31, 2008. The problem is my house was built in 2003 and all homes then only had insulation on the top half of the basement. I really didn't understand the judge's decision. He knew they were making up false claims here and there and I proved they were not telling the truth because the things they said didn't make sense and he was contradicting himself. The judge says he's going to regret his decision but then why did he make such a decision?
Bottom line: ALWAYS have a contract written with exactly what you want done and make sure that both of you sign it. Include any changes that were made during construction and sign or initial it. Make sure he has a GST # and according to the jerk in court - you can get the inspector in one day. Must do the home inspection to make sure they are doing things to code. Watch and check everything they do to make sure they do not short change you. DO NOT trust ANY contractor. Just because they were referred does not mean they are honest and will not short change you.
The monetary limit for small claims court has been raised from $10,000 to $25,000 as of January 1st, 2010. So get yourself a paralegal!
One last thing, during construction, somehow find out where the contractor banks - just the branch is good enough. Use this as safekeeping for yourself because even if you do win in your court battle, you want to be able to put a garnishment on him so you will get your compensation - otherwise, you will have another court battle to try to get your money.
Always get what you want during the construction, withhold the last payment for some time. You have within one year to sue.
I guess everyone should know this, but still, a lot of people do not know this. How do we get this out to everyone? Especially those one generation above us and those who do not know English well - they just do not know. So educate your parents.