Don’t let your­self be­come the fraud man out

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

YOU would think that af­ter 10 years of me show­ing case af­ter case of bad con­trac­tors that there wouldn’t be so many of them out there. But there are. And they’re still tak­ing homeowners’ money and run­ning.

Fel­low con­trac­tors are al­ways telling me, “Mike, why don’t you go af­ter th­ese guys? Why don’t you do a show about catch­ing th­ese crooks? They’re giv­ing us good guys a bad name.”

I agree — and they’re drag­ging the in­dus­try down with them.

When it comes to home ren­o­va­tions, add fraud to greed and you’ve got the kind of peo­ple who de­serve to be in jail. They cal­cu­late and strate­gize on how they can take homeowners’ money and get away with it. They know the fraud laws.

Fraud laws state that as long as you do a lit­tle bit of work in the house you can’t be charged with fraud. That’s be­cause a con­trac­tor can come back and claim that they were do­ing their due dili­gence. As long as the con­trac­tor has done some work, it’s dif­fi­cult to prove in court the con­trac­tor didn’t do what they were “sup­posed” to do.

And even if they’re charged with fraud, odds are by the time it goes to court they get away with it — most homeowners don’t have the money to fight the case, es­pe­cially af­ter a bad ren­o­va­tion.

The fraud­sters don’t care about you. They don’t care about your kids. They don’t care if your house burns down. What they care about is get­ting your money. And they will do and say any­thing to get you to give it to them.

In­tim­i­da­tion is used a lot by fraud sus­pects. They’ll threaten to put a lien on your house or report you to the po­lice. This makes homeowners not want to report any­thing or deal with them al­to­gether — to the point where homeowners just want them to go away. And that lets them off the hook.

Homeowners need to report home ren­o­va­tion fraud sus­pects. Th­ese cases go un­re­ported too of­ten. Peo­ple are em­bar­rassed and think they won’t be taken se­ri­ously.

But there are many or­ga­ni­za­tions that you can go to — or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau, Min­istry of Con­sumer Ser­vices, Cana­dian Anti-Fraud Cen­tre and lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments. The more in­for­ma­tion you give th­ese agen­cies, the more likely they can go af­ter th­ese crooks.

In or­der to fight th­ese peo­ple, agen­cies need “sim­i­lar fact” ev­i­dence. Sim­i­lar fact ev­i­dence is some­thing that re­peats over and over again in a num­ber of house­holds. That’s why homeowners need to come for­ward. With­out that in­for­ma­tion, th­ese agen­cies are hand­cuffed.

New mea­sures are be­ing taken, like the pre­paid con­tract­ing li­cence en­dorsed by Ser­vice Al­berta. Ba­si­cally, it pre­vents con­trac­tors from re­ceiv­ing a de­posit and then never com­plet­ing the job. If you’re a res­i­den­tial con­trac­tor in Al­berta and you’re ac­cept­ing money be­fore all the work is fin­ished, you now need a pre­paid con­tract­ing li­cence.

As far as I’m con­cerned, the best way to beat home ren­o­va­tion fraud is by ed­u­cat­ing the homeowners — and the pub­lic in gen­eral — on what’s a scam and what’s not.

Homeowners also need to look at the con­tract. Seems like I can’t say this enough. Is there in­for­ma­tion on what the job is go­ing to look like or how much it’s go­ing to cost in floors, trim, re­pairs, build­ing walls, elec­tri­cal and plumb­ing? If it doesn’t spell out any­thing other than “I want your money and we’re coming in on this date,” kick them out. And if the price seems too good to be true, I guar­an­tee it is.

Know your rights. Most homeowners don’t know that they can can­cel a con­tract within 10 days — it’s what’s known as a cool­ing-off pe­riod. They can also can­cel their con­tract if there is any mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion by the com­pany they hired.

The last time I got sub­poe­naed to court, a “pro­fes­sional” kitchen com­pany brought in this big lawyer. Be­fore we went into the court­room I told the guy, “Do you really want to do this? Do you really want to fight th­ese peo­ple or do you want to give them their money back right now?” He de­cided to fight them and he lost. In the end, the judge took the money this com­pany paid up­front to de­fend this case, charged them more and then gave it all to the homeowners.

But homeowners have to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity and do their home­work. I don’t want you to think that go­ing to court is your first op­tion; it’s ex­pen­sive. It’s al­ways bet­ter to pre­vent than to treat. As far as I’m con­cerned, the bat­tle isn’t won in the court­room. It’s won at home when you kick th­ese peo­ple out of your house and you don’t give them a dime. Catch Mike Holmes in his new se­ries, Holmes Makes It Right, Tues­days at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit . For more in­for­ma­tion on home ren­o­va­tions, visit

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