When a freak electrical fire caused a portion of the roof to cave in at Agith Ananthagobal’s Scarborough bungalow in January, his family saw a silver lining amid the ashes — the chance for a fresh start in the form of a full home renovation.
But five months later, that plan appears to also have gone up in smoke. Ananthagobal says a contractor abandoned the job with about $40,000 of paid work uncompleted — a cautionary tale as the busy summer reno season heats up.
“I feel tricked, fooled. I’m embarrassed. It was just really frustrating and upsetting,” Ananthagobal, 22, said.
After being contacted by the Star, contractor Jordan Brown, a roofing framer and owner of Toronto-based registered company Modern Square Carpentry, told Ananthagobal he still plans to finish the job.
“All we want to do is finish the job that we are 7 days past completion date,” a representative said in an email to the Star, signed Modern Square Carpentry. “There is still a completion balance owed to receive upon completion. The customer is not allowing us to complete the job.”
As the eldest of four sons to a single mother, who all lived together in the bungalow, Ananthagobal took it upon himself to find a contractor. His family temporarily relocated to a rental basement apartment and took out a second mortgage on their home for $110,000, under a private loan, to finance the renovation and repair work.
Ananthagobal searched Kijiji for a contractor, and got three quotes before hiring Brown.
Brown quoted him $86,000 to repair and renovate his home, for a total of $100,000 including tax.
Brown had positive reviews on Google, Ananthagobal said. He also took the added measure of calling the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to confirm Brown was registered after hiring him.
“He seemed so friendly, so passionate about it. He was even comforting us about our situation,” Ananthagobal said.
The two agreed to a contract dated Feb. 20, which the Star viewed. It listed a completion date of April 15.
In his payment schedule, Brown asked for a 5 per cent deposit, and 30 per cent up front for obtaining architectural drawings and city permits for a total of about $31,000 before the physical had work begun.
The contract also ordered payments for “starting” jobs such as demolition and framing, demanding the remainder of the money when it’s complete.
To date Ananthagobal claims Brown has only finished half of the work at his home, like shingling the roof, installing new stairs, tiling the main hallway and two washrooms, and some of the drywall.
As the deadline loomed, Ananthagobal said Brown claimed he was delayed in his work due to an April ice storm, and so he verbally agreed to extend the deadline until May 25.
“We were expecting to have our house really nicely renovated, for waiting so long, and looking forward to going back to our home,” Ananthagobal said.
After extending the deadline, Ananthagobal said he made repeated attempts to contact Brown, calling, texting, and attending the location listed as his work address on the contract — an office in North York — but only began hearing back from Brown after the Star contacted him via email.
Brown did not respond to the Star’s questions about Ananthagobal’s claims.
Ananthagobal said he has even done some work on the house himself, emptying garbage off a large waste container after the company Brown hired refused to take the bin off his driveway because it was overflowing.
A month and a half after the contract’s initial deadline, the list of unfinished work includes the basement — which Ananthagobal subcontracted himself in order to move back in — paint jobs, installing doors or baseboards, electrical outlets, and debris cleanup.
Another contractor Ananthagobal consulted with estimated Brown did only $40,000 worth of the job.
Contractors asking for money before doing any renovations is a red flag, said lawyer Gurlal Kler, who specializes in labour, employment, and commercial litigation at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.
Kler said a best practice for paying contractors is to make a deposit in good faith, like 10 per cent up front, and draw up a detailed project schedule including materials used, that will see payments upon completion at each stage.
“It encourages a contractor to be honest and to show up to work, and if they do abandon the job, at the very least you didn’t pay more than what you got,” Kler said.