Amateurs are bad enough… and then there are the scammers


There are three things you need the most when you hire someone to renovate, says Mike Martin.

First, you need security.

Second, you need peace of mind.

Third, your renovator must give a minimum two-year warranty, abide by WSIB safety codes, and carry proper insurance.

Once you have those bases covered, he says, you can start shopping for the person whose work you most admire.

Mike Martin is the owner of Michael J. Martin Luxury Renovations. He’s RenoMark™ certified, which means, in a nutshell, you can trust him.

Mike tells the story of a fellow who hired a contractor to remove an old    addition from his house and build a new one. With 15 per cent down, the contractor began work. He tore off the old addition (“with a backhoe!” says Mike, aghast) and began digging for a new foundation. All of a sudden, the contractor said he had hit rock and required another $75,000.

The homeowner went to the bank, who said it was outrageous and wouldn’t forward the funds. The contractor walked away and left the house open to the elements for two months. The house began to fill up with dead pigeons.

“This sort of disaster happens all the time,” says Mike. In the 26 years he’s been in business, he has seen the ravages of disreputable contractors.

“It’s brutal,” he says. “And there’s more of it than everyone knows. Not    many people want to come forward and say they got ripped off.”

The most certain answer to these horror stories, he says, is to hire someone who is RenoMark™ certified. For one thing, you know they’ve taken the time to make a commitment to quality. For another, they’re insured – and the client is protected.

Getting an incompetent renovator or contractor is only part of what can    happen when you don’t know who you’re hiring, however.

John Herbert, Executive Director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, says it can get much worse when an unsuspecting client runs into a scammer – someone who makes a living out of taking a big deposit and then disappearing.

“It’s purely criminal, of course,” says John. “And it’s become worse in the Ottawa area over the last five years. These guys take your money and just move on.”

He says one of the most important reasons for using a RenoMark™ contractor is that it immediately differentiates between the amateurs and professionals.

“There are so many opportunities to hire someone who’s part of the underground economy,” he says. “It’s really hard for the average person to know how in heck they can find someone without ending up in the legal nightmare of their lives.”

When you hire a RenoMark™ member, he says, “there’s no way” you need to worry about that. You can’t become registered with RenoMark™ unless all the legal assurances are in place.

“These underground amateurs prey on innocent people,” says John. “You might call four contractors, for instance. Three are already booked up months in advance, but one says he can do it right now. People get sucked in by that. They don’t stop to think why three are booked up and one isn’t. It’s the first step in a slippery slope.”

RenoMark™ renovators and contractors go that one step further, says John Wenuk, owner of Sandy Hill Construction.

“As a professional,” he says, “I know members of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association are already the cream of the cream,” he says. “I have great respect for all my colleagues because of their very high standards.”

But, he explains, when they decide to become RenoMark™ members, “they are implementing even higher standards.”

He adds the RenoMark™ certification program is a source of security for clients.

“It gives them assurance,” he says, “that they’re getting the right company to do the work.”