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Published: 01/21/2013

by Gino Sgovio - Sales Representative RE/MAX Rouge River Realty Inc. Brokerage

You would  think that after years of reality T.V. shows such as Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspections, that bad contactors would be running scared. This is not the case. Homeowners are still getting conned, losing their hard earned money and getting nothing but the run around in return.

When I am watching these shows, I often find myself asking why doesn’t Mike go after these guys. Why isn’t there somewhere online we homeowners can go to, to find out which contractors not to use? It makes me think that every contractor, even the good ones are in it to steal my money.

Fraud laws are written in such ways that they state, as long as you do a little bit of work in the house you can’t be charged with fraud, simply because a contractor can come back and claim that they were doing their due diligence.If there are true grounds to charge these contractors with fraud , the homeowners have to pay out of their own pocket to prove that they were taken. Add the time and stress and the unfinished renovations on top of it all, and any homeowner would tell you it’s not worth the long drawn out process so they often just give up.

These bad contractors simply don’t care about you, they don’t care about the inconvenience they cause your family, they don’t care for your safety or if your house up and burns to the ground. All they care about is getting paid and will do, or say anything for you to give them more money.

The laws acutely work better in their favor more than yours. In knowing this,  they will try all sorts of things to intimidate you. They will threaten to put a lien on your house; or will play the victim and call the police. Homeowners get frighten by these scare tactics so they don’t report anything, or deal with these bad contactors. They just want to wake up from their nightmare and wished it never happened, letting the contractors off the hook. Homeowners need to report home renovation fraud suspects. People are embarrassed, and think they won’t be taken seriously. Give it a try anyways; in most cases, you’ll be happy you made that call.

So here is your first step to putting these contractors on notice. Go to organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, Ministry of Consumer Services, or Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and local police departments. The more you report these bad Reno jobs to these places, the more likely something or someone will step in to investigate and possibly even press charges. 

In order to frighten these people, all agencies should be reported to insure that “similar fact” evidence is found. Similar fact evidence is when a pattern is found where a report for consumer’s fraud becomes repeated over a number of households. This is why it is extremely important to stand up, come forward and do something.

There is some good news. Our governments are recognizing the growing fraud on homes and are taking measure. Here is a step taken in Alberta. Basically, contractors have to obtain a Prepaid Contracting License for a fee to be paid to the government, this allows the contractor to be recognized and allows them to take a deposit before beginning work.  This License ensures that a contractor is providing the services they had been hired to do as agreed to by the consumer. If there is a break down and the homeowner needs to make a claim on the job, the homeowner can do so; and if the claim is found in the favor of the homeowner, the recovered loss of payment is awarded from the license fee that was paid to the government.

In addition to our government taking action, the best way to beat this home renovation fraud is to educate our homeowners, and the public on what a scam is and isn’t. We can teach them how to notice the red flags and trust me there are many .. Door-to-door contractors are a perfect example. If a contractor is knocking on your door that means they aren’t busy and that’s not because there is no work. Contractors that show up in a regular old beat up car is a great example of a red flag. A good contractor is professional, presents well and usual owns a professional truck or van.  Contractors that offer big discounts in homemade looking flyers are another telltale sign to not call. TRUST ME a Good contractor is always busy and they aren’t on the hunt for new jobs, in fact they are overbooked through word of mouth.

Another important  thing is that a homeowner should understand the contract; I can’t stress this point enough. My elementary school teacher use to say NO QUESTION IS A DUMB QUESTION. If you don’t get it, ask!!! Things a good contract should have for home renovations are; information on what the job is going to look like and maybe even a drawing,  they will provide you a overall cost which should be broken down by flooring, trim, repairs, building materials needed, electrical and plumbing. If it isn’t written in good old black and white, then you can bet that you will be taken and you may as well write a blank check. So take action and kick them out. Remember the best rule of all, “ is the price seems too good to be true, I guarantee it is.” Homeowners do have contract law they can count on; and if they are within 10 days of the start of the contract they have every right to cancel. It’s what we call the “Cooling off Period.” You may also cancel a contract if you have been misled and the company misrepresented themself to you.

 The last piece of info I do have to say is this, homeowners have to take some responsibility and do their homework. I am not telling you the first thing to do when you are in a situation is run to court, it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money. It’s much better to interview contractors, ask for their portfolio, and references of their most recent jobs. Go and see what work has been done and completed by who you may hire. It’s better to take these steps first then to assume this can’t happen to you and next thing you know you’re in too deep and living a real nightmare.


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