A Durham-area couple knows how much easier it is to obtain a judgment in small claims court than to get back money from an absent defendant.
O’neil and Jessica Richards sued a home improvement contractor for $25,000 and obtained a default judgment from the court. The contractor did not file a defence. So far, they have not seen any sign of their money.
The Richards hired Ronald Gaal in 2018 to finish their basement in Ajax. They said they paid Gaal a series of instalments of about $33,000 in cash.
“He sold us well, told us what we needed to hear,” said O’neil, explaining that he and his wife felt confident about Gaal’s qualifications based on photos on his website and assertions that he was fully insured.
The contract stated that Gaal would complete the basement to the point of “move-in ready” condition.
The couple said that in January, after the Richards family gave him all the money, Gaal did not return to their home. They said he stopped accepting phone calls and text messages.
In the basement, Gaal hung drywall, but there are no doors, no kitchen cabinets, no bathroom fixtures and no flooring. The basement is dark because no there are no lights.
The contract stated that Gaal would provide “all electrical … including pot lights” and kitchen “cabinets, sink, hardware” and “walk-in shower, vanity and toilet.” The contract also promised a “residential lifetime warranty … we warranty all materials and labour only.”
The Richards said they believed they were dealing with a man named Ron Castle, owner of Castle Construction — the company name on the contract. However, the couple said when they went to police to file a complaint, a detective advised that Castle’s real surname is Gaal.
The detective told Global News police had heard from another unsatisfied client before the Richards.
The Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services received six inquiries or complaints about Castle Construction between 2017 and 2019. The government ministry took no action Castle Construction in connection with any disputes. They also received an incident report about Crew Contracting, another business name Gaal was using.
Lately, Gaal is soliciting clients in advertising under the name CCWR Systems. CCWR Systems is not registered with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), even though it makes that claim on its website.
“We will be contacting the company to ask them to remove any reference to WSIB coverage from their website,” a WSIB spokesperson said in an email.
Global News invited Gaal to answer questions in an on-camera interview.
“Mr. Gaal would be willing to meet in person at your office for an interview,” he said in an email. However, Gaal did not show up or answer further inquiries.
Two days earlier, Global News caught Gaal by surprise outside a home where Gaal had shown up to give a renovation quote. Asked why he did not finish the Richards’ project but accepted all the money, Gaal denied wrongdoing.
“I did the job, actually,” Gaal told a reporter as he walked quickly to his car parked up the road.
The Richards family said they consulted another contractor to inspect the work that Gaal performed in the basement.
“He told me it all has to be taken down,” O’neil said, explaining that the contractor pointed out deficiencies in the work.
“It hurts,” O’neil said, acknowledging the couple relied on Gaal’s website and statements about “20 years in the business.”
But they did not ask for references or question Gaal’s insistence on being paid cash.
Durham Regional Police declined to lay criminal charges because a detective said a conviction was unlikely.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the home improvement contractor, Ronald Gaal.