Contractor Renovator Fraud Booms In Alberta
As Alberta's booming economy continues to lure people away from other parts of Canada, the construction industry cannot keep up to the demand for construction and renovation work. One of the results of this has been the development of a steady stream of unlicensed and fraudulant contractors operating in Alberta.
Most recently, Alberta Government Services has issued a warning concerning an Edmonton based home renovator named John Alexander Lazerman. Lazerman was the subject of a previous AGS warning in September of 1999.
Lazerman has a long history of convictions, and has served jail terms for operating without a contractor licence, and home renovation fraud. AGS has a Restraining Order against Lazerman prohibiting him from operating in the pre-paid contracting business either as a business owner, or a sales representative. Mr. Lazerman does not have a contractor's licence, or a surety bond.
However, recently the Department has received complaints about Mr. Lazerman from consumers, including seniors, in the Edmonton area. Lazerman typically sells his services door-to-door, and usually demands some payment before all the work is completed. He suggests to homeowners that they need repairs such as roof replacements, cement jobs, painting, siding and window renovations. The complaints allege he charges unreasonably high prices, does poor quality work, and fails to complete the work as promised.
Previously, in 1993 Lazerman voluntarily agreed to a restraining order, prohibiting him from operating in the prepaid contracting business without being properly licensed and registered. In 1994, Lazerman was jailed after being convicted of a number of home renovation fraud offences. In 1997, Lazerman received a further 26 month jail sentence for home renovation fraud.
The situation with Mr. Lazerman is only the latest of a number of high profile investigations involving contractor fraud in Alberta. Other recent investigations include:
- On July 27th, 2000, the AGS issued a warning concerning two unlicensed home renovators operating in the Edmonton area. The renovators were Paul and Steve Handy, operating as Handy Contracting, Handy Roof Repair, and/or The Handy Group of Companies Inc. The two contactor plus The Handy Group of Companies Inc. were subsequently charged with 36 charges under the Fair Trading Act, and the former Licensing of Trades and Businesses Act. The complaints from consumers, (worth over $100,000 in contracts), allege that the contractors took large advance deposits from customers, and then did not complete work as promised.
- On May 26th, 2000, AGS issued a warning concerning another unlicensed home renovator in Edmonton, Andy Radzikowski, operating as Canata Renovation Ltd., or Canata Renovation Consultants Ltd. AGS subsequently charged Radzikowski and Canata Renovation Consultants Ltd. with 30 charges concerning operating without a prepaid business license, and other related charges. Radzikowski targets seniors, and the complaints allege that he takes advance deposits from consumers, does not perform the work as promised.
- On January 11th, 2000 AGS issued a warning to homeowners, especially seniors, to be aware of unlicensed home renovator Bradford Kent Gleige, operating as B & T Roofing and Siding. Gleige has had four separate arrest warrants issued on him for operating without a contracting license in the areas of Fort Macleod, Lethbridge, and Coaldale. Consumers allege that Gleige takes advance deposits from customers, and then performs little of any, of the promised work Gleige targets seniors in small southern Alberta communities.
- On December 18th, 1999, Alberta Municipal Affiars issued a warning of a B.C. based home renovator who apparently moved to Alberta. Andy James Kralik, operating as Exterior Home Services, was being pursued to the Vancouver Police. The VPD allege Kralik deceived four elderly woman out of more than $500,000. Kralik befriends elderly women under the pretext of conducting home renovations for them. Once gaining the victim's truat, he becomes involved in their financial affairs.
So as one can see, just from these "reported" investigations and warnings, contractor fraud is booming in Alberta.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING A CONTRACTOR/RENOVATOR
1) See that the contractor has a provincial pre-paid contractor's licence (confirm by calling 1-780-427-4088 in Edmonton, or 1-403-297-5700 in Calgary). Any contractor accepting money prior to completing the work must have this license. A condition of this license is the issuance of a surety bond by an insuance company ( a bond where a complainant can receive a payout if the insured takes money without performing services). The issuance of the contractor's license is a complete background check, noting previous complaints against the applicant.
2) See that the contractor has a Revenue Canada GST number - confirm by calling 1-800-959-5525. Note - one man p/time operations may not have this, as it is not required until the company reaches $30,000 in annual sales.
3) If the contractor has employees, he should be registered with Workers' Compensation - call 310-0000 to confirm.
4) May wish to call the city or town where he's operating from to see if he has a business licence (Rainbow Investigations reports from experience that many businesses, even very legitimate ones, do not have this requirement. This requirement tends to not be well enforced in most jurisdictions, so this check is considered to be of marginal value).
Of course, like any other business, successful contractors get new customers through referrals of previous customers. Ask around - were their previous customers happy with the work, at the promised price?
WHEN TO BECOME SUSPICIOUS & PROBABLY AVOID CONTRACTORS
- When a supposed contractor goes door-to-door, saying they just happen to be in the area, and can give you a special price.
- Promise you a discount if you allow them to use your home "as an example to advertise our work". Probably all their customers get this "discount" offer.
- Demand a large down payment to buy materials. Most reputable contractors maintain charge accounts with suppliers.
- quote a price without seeing the job
- Refuse to allow you to get other competing estimates
- Refuse to give you a written contract of what they exactly will do and by what date the job will be finished.
- Offer lifetime warranties, that in reality are only as good as the life of the company
Date of Story: Monday, February 12, 2001
Story Posted By: Ron Reinhold
Source: Ron Reinhold
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