Police investigating after London homeowners out nearly $70K in unfinished renovations

Supported By:

Net Patrol International Inc.  Data Investigation and Forensic Services
Bankruptcy and Insolvency Trustees

Seven families allege they put down deposits for work that was never started.

When Lisa Davis and Neil Mutch, of London, Ont. decided to hire someone to update their home in the spring of 2021, they had no idea that more than a year later, they’d be out of nearly $25,000 and stuck with damages from an unfinished job.

The couple paid $35,500 as part of a 50 per cent deposit to London-based AJF Construction to have their roof redone and install a new door and windows.

“It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare,” said Davis. “Anytime we reached out after paying the 50 per cent, there were no phone calls, no updates, nothing.”

They say the contract they signed in May 2021 promised Davis and Mutch that the job would start in early October and be completed within five weeks. But throughout the summer, the couple said they didn’t hear any updates on when the work would begin. 

Mutch said work finally began on their roof in November, after they put pressure on him but asked for more money on top of the deposit to buy materials for the work left outstanding.

When it came time for the couple’s windows to be done, winter had already begun so they agreed to be the company’s first job in March, 2022. They said they spent the next two months trying to contact owner Andrew Fraser with no luck. 

Contractor apologizes for lack of communication

“His communication has been absolutely terrible,” Much said. “Lisa and I were concerned that we were going to lose the rest of our deposit because we thought we had been scammed. It took us 18 weeks before we gave up on Andrew. He’d taken that long to do it.” 

“The work’s still not completed, and we’re at the end of September, so he had access to our house for five full months and just kept coming up with excuses,” Davis added.

Davis said Fraser’s excuses included not showing up, or coming for a few hours to not return later, or materials being delayed. But in August, Davis followed up with Royal Building Products, the company Fraser told her he ordered a garage door from, who confirmed there was no order placed at all. Documents obtained by CBC confirm the customer’s claim. 

“He (Fraser) then told us he ordered the door from someone else under a different name but never showed us any proof. He hasn’t returned any of our calls or emails since. He’s basically completely disappeared,” said Davis.

The couple said they don’t have a warranty on any work AJF Construction has done, and despite Fraser offering to refund their deposit, they haven’t received any money.

In an emailed statement to CBC, Fraser apologized to his clients for his lack of communication.

“With lack of communication, it is hard to not assume the worst,” he wrote. “We have had no breaks in work being completed and have been working diligently to complete work for clients that have been waiting in longer wait times than we have ever seen before.

“Going forward, we have changed our communication efforts so that all past and previous clients can expect the high level of service AJF Construction has been known for.”

Network of alleged victims

Similar to Davis and Mutch, Londoner Jeremy McCall said he paid a $4,000 deposit to AJF Construction in January for a new front door after connecting with Fraser on a Facebook business networking group.

“He gave us a date to install it but didn’t show up,” McCall said. “We didn’t hear from him for another 10 days after that so I started believing that a door didn’t exist in the first place.” 

After months of chasing Fraser and applying pressure to go to the police, Fraser returned some of McCall’s deposit but still owes him about $1,650. Eventually, McCall found six other families who had allegedly fallen victim to the company and are owed a collective $69,650, McCall said.

“They all had pretty much the exact same story,” he said. “Some people gave him upwards of 18 months to start their projects, but they haven’t had any work done either or any money returned to them.”

John Curtis, the networking group’s moderator, acted as mediator between Fraser and the clients, urging him to pay them back, but said his messages have gone unanswered since July.

“I told him, ‘You’ve screwed up, so start selling your trucks or something to reimburse these people,’ when I was offering him assistance on the fulfilment side, he just wasn’t entertaining it,” Curtis said. 

“I fully believe at this point he had no intention of doing this work. He was just taking money from people hoping they weren’t connected and then blocking them on every channel.”

However, Fraser said staffing challenges had been a big part of the delay. 

“We, like many other businesses, have had a hardship in finding employees and materials to complete jobs since shortage problems arose,” he said in an email to CBC News. “At no point was there even an option of not completing the work hired to do, and we wish communication that we could have done, but lacked in, could have shown this.”

McCall said he and others have filed a police report. On Monday, London police confirmed that their fraud unit is investigating but can’t speak to the specifics of the case until charges are laid. 

Davis and Mutch said they plan to take Fraser to small claims court to try and recoup an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in repairs to damages Fraser left at their house.

This article was originally sourced from www.cbcnews.com