The City of Calgary has laid charges against one man who ran a general contracting business that clients claimed took their money but didn’t finish the work.
Kent Pallister, the city’s chief licence inspector, said the city started investigating Fresh Contracting and Construction following several complaints.
Pallister said the city has been contacted by commercial and residential consumers as well as sub-contractors. He added they quickly took action, charging the corporation and one of its directors under city bylaws.
“When this business applied for their licence they told us they do not take prepayments or installments and deposits from residential consumers,” he said. “We issued the licence based on that and then the investigation seemed to find that is not the case.”
The city also found during its investigation that the company’s licence had expired.
“From 2015 to mid-2019 they were licensed,” Pallister added. “They failed to renew in 2019 and we have evidence they were operating while unlicensed, so we took action on that part.”
Sarah Byers was one of the commercial consumers to file a complaint.
She leased out a space in February to set up her dream cafe Dilish Bites ‘N Brews. She hired Fresh Contracting and Construction to do the job but said as the weeks went on, so did the delays. Eventually, she said the work stopped and she had to count on family and friends to finish the job.
Byers said she paid the contractors $100,000 in installments before refusing to hand over any more money.
She concerned about what she called the lack of protection for consumers.
“You would think there would be some sort of system in place to make sure these guys are licensed properly,” Byers said.
The city reiterated the company was licensed until late this year.
Pallister said it’s important consumers also do their due diligence.
“You can phone 3-1-1 to see if a business is licensed. You can go to the city web page on contractors and actually run the name to see if it’s licensed.”
Byers said she did that and more.
“We did all of our homework. They were a legitimate company, they had good reviews, they had good social media, they had a good website,” she added.
“We didn’t pay him upfront, we didn’t pay him the 100 per cent. We paid him in installments. We took the right steps.”
An online fundraising campaign has been set up to help the young mom and entrepreneur recover some of the losses. It has raised thousands of dollars but it still may not enough to keep the business open.
Byers has been forced to temporarily close Dilish Bites ‘N Brews, just eight weeks after officially opening. She’s now looking for someone to take over her lease in case she can’t reopen.
“I’m facing massive debt.”
The city is still investigating the different cases and whether the contractor followed the proper permit procedures. The bylaw the contracting company has been charged under has specified penalties of $1,000. However, Pallister said in cases like this they will usually make it a mandatory court appearance and fines on a bylaw charge can be up to $10,000.
Byers is also planning to take the contractor to court, and added she isn’t the only one owed money. She told Global News everyone who worked on her cafe — from start to finish — was not paid.
Global News tried repeatedly to get a hold of the company but did not get an answer back.