Watch out for renovation con artists

A booming home renovation market makes it difficult to find a contractor willing to quote on a job in some parts of Canada. Sometimes it’s a problem to get them to return and finish the job they’ve started.

Even in this hot market, there are still some contractors who will spend their time and energy defrauding consumers.

A recent news item tells an all-too-familiar story of seniors ripped off by shady contractors. The good news is that the Toronto-area contractor was sentenced to six months in jail and two years probation. He was also ordered to pay restitution totalling $16,150, for bilking two retired couples.

The contractor, Joseph Martin Gerring, of Apple Renovations and Better Home Renovations, is also prohibited from dealing directly with the public as a renovator. If he does any renovation work, it must be as an employee of another company.

Consumers lost thousands

The consumers in the case spent $14,000 and $2,150 on renovation work for their homes. Some work was done in one case, and none in the other. Gerring promised to refund money to one of the consumers, but never paid up.

He was convicted and promptly nailed to the wall bthe presiding judge.

Get free advice

"This sentence sends a strong message to the few dishonest renovators who may plan to take advantage of consumers this summer," says Dick Brouwer, President of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

"We’re very pleased with the results of this prosecution, and the efforts to pursue unscrupulous operators. To avoid dealing with unknown or underground operators we recommend that consumers call their local homebuilders’ association for information on choosing a renovator."

That’s sound advice. Contact any provincial government’s ministry of consumer affairs or a local home builders association for free brochures and information on choosing a renovator who does quality work at fair prices.

Once you’ve got a short list of contractors, ask for references from previous customers before handing over any of your hard-earned money.