It seems that with the current provincial laws (Construction Lien Act) the consumer has little rights regarding contractors in their home. In fact, we are being swindled by Ron Malachowski (owner of Nortec Electric in Whitby ON) and have found out the hard way.
Despite a signed contract stating $7, 000-10, 000 to replace knob and tube wiring in our house he kept raising the price as the job progressed. The increasing cost was not due to the adding of extras mind you, just because he had underestimated how long it would take him. After the first phase, he told us it would be about $15, 000 to complete the job. My wife and I were upset but appreciated that we must be a bit flexible as well. He assured us that the final price would be $15, 000.
We went away for a week vacation and when we got back we were told by our contractor that the electrician would not allow him in the house while he was working (for a whole week) and that set everything back by a week minimum. A call to the electrician resulted in him asking if we wanted to pay cash for some of the work to avoid taxes. I asked why, I thought it was $15k. He said no, I am at $17, 800 already and not done. He said he would do the job, complete for $20, 000 and with that he would be taking a $6000-$7000 hit!
We finally had enough and tried to fire him. He threatened us with liens and doing everything in his power to ensure the job would be delayed further. Advice from a lawyer friend said to pay him and, if desired, take him to small claims court later because the electrician was correct (he could place a lien on the property with little justification other than fear of not being paid and a payment of $60 to process the lien). Based on this advice, we therefore agreed to pay him the $20, 000 he requested to finish the job. We agreed to pay him $15, 000 and then give him the remaining $5000 in monthly installments. He agreed and cashed our cheques.
Less than 48 hours before we were to move in (we moved out for the renovations) he had hydro cut the power to our home. Despite numerous calls (more than 30) and messages to his cell, home or pager that went unreturned we had to hire a new electrician to get the power back on and finish the job before we moved in. When we arrived at the house there was an invoice for $27, 000 and a few days later a registered letter came from his lawyer to tell us to pay the invoice in full within 10 days (the letter was dated one day after receiving the invoice). Even the law states that we are required to hold back 10% for 45 days but the legal document from his lawyer ignored to piece of legislation. A lien was registered on our property the day the letter arrived.
We have hired a lawyer to fight this. We have been informed by him that if we choose to fight it, that it will take approximately 2 years to reach court and our legal fees would mount. He recommended settling quickly.
Calls to the Better Business Bureau, Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Affairs, Electrical Safety Authority etc resulted in no recourse for us. The BBB and MSBCA act as mediators but only if both parties agree and the wait time for mediation is months. The ESA is unconcerned with business practices only fire/safety hazards. In fact, code violations that were observed in the house were brushed off as they were not fire hazards, just very poor workmanship. Further, if they acted on them I would have to pay the new electrician to fix them all.
We renegotiated our mortgage at a lower rate (2% lower than our current) and included funds to pay for the renovations, but the mortgage cannot be processed until the lien is removed.
Each day my wife and I lose more money and in the end: (1) we will have settled for subpar workmanship, (2) paid thousands more for a job that was uncompleted, (3) had to pay a new electrician to finish the job and pay for a new permit, (4) lost more money in interest and (5) pay a lawyer to deal with the mess.
It should be noted that the electrician was paid up to date based on the mutually agreed payment schedule. Any man that is willing to look you in the eye and shake your hand on a deal (and we shook hands) only to stab you in the back is not a real man. He is a crook and a poor excuse for human.
Consumer beware does not even begin to touch this situation. This person had no reports with BBB or Consumer Affairs, but considering that companies can change their name at the drop of a hat and have friends act as references, the consumer can do all the background checking they want. You could even be the best customer and even pay more than they quote but in the end, for mere $60, they can place a lien on your property prohibiting the sale/refinancing of your home. All this amounts to them sucking more money out of you because it will cost you more to wait out the 2 year wait for court.
Ron Malachowski of Nortec Electric will rob you blind. Contract or no contract, he will use his lawyer to milk you of your money.