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Reno gone wrong: Toronto-based contractor takes $82K, disappears

Click to play video: 'Customer says contractor took $82,000 in deposits, then left'
Customer says contractor took $82,000 in deposits, then left
WATCH: Customer says contractor took $82,000 in deposits, then left – Mar 9, 2023

A Toronto-based renovation contractor who held about $82,000 in deposits without completing work has left a customer convinced he’ll never see any of the money again despite taking legal action.

The project began in late 2021 when the customer, whose first name is Jeff, hired Miller Building Group, operated by Todd Miller.

Global News has agreed to withhold Jeff’s surname because of concerns for his safety, unrelated to this story.

“Nothing but excuses, lies and deceit,” said Jeff, describing Miller’s abandonment of the renovation project in late 2022.

Jeff says he thought he’d done due diligence when he hired Miller: he asked for references and saw a project Miller had finished.

“I interviewed him, he showed up, he was professional,” said Jeff in an interview at his home, which is still under re-construction.

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Miller did complete some of the work early on in the project which involved gutting and renovating a multi-level property west of downtown Toronto.

Because he saw work underway, Jeff said he felt comfortable giving Miller more money up front.

“He was asking for higher deposits for the lead items,” Jeff said.

According to Jeff’s accounting , he advanced Miller $22,175 toward kitchen cabinets; $23,000 for stair stringers; $8,950 for stair treads;  $11,836 for built-in closets in bedrooms; $5,000 for a front cement slab; $3,400 for a front-entry closet; $3,900 for a garage door. He says he also paid a $4,000 deposit toward a front deck.

The money was on top of funds used to pay in full for plumbing, electrical, painting, HVAC, and a renovated back yard. But Jeff says much of that work was left incomplete.

“It’s disgusting. He should be ashamed of himself,” Jeff said.

With about $82,000 worth of deposits in hand, Jeff says Miller took his tools and left the property, promising his sub-contractors would fulfill the balance of the commitments. They didn’t.

For example, the independent carpenter who was assigned to install the cabinetry didn’t show up. Global News contacted the tradesman who said Miller hadn’t paid him.

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Jeff says Miller made various excuses and promises to complete the work.

Global News listened to a 90-minute phone conversation between Miller, Jeff and a family member. The conversation was recorded by Jeff.

During the call, Jeff and the family member attempted to get Miller to commit to supply items that had been paid for, like the stair stringers.

Miller expressed anger that Jeff had placed a negative review about his predicament on the review site HomeStars.

“Do what you want, keep your (review) posts up, you want to burn me,” Miller said on the call.

Todd Miller. Supplied

At more than one point in the call, Miller promised to travel to Montreal to raise money to repay Jeff.

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That never happened.

When Jeff says he was convinced Miller would neither finish the work or repay the deposits, he initiated a legal claim in small claims court.

However, Jeff says his process servers were unable to serve the papers when they went to Miller’s home office in Toronto’s beach area.

Miller’s white truck had been stripped of its markings and is frequently parked in the rear of the building.

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Global News paid eight visits to the home office in an attempt to get comment from Miller.

On Feb. 22, Miller descended the rear stairs to the property on the way to his truck.

After identifying himself, a reporter waiting there asked Miller to explain why he had accepted deposits from Jeff but had not completed the work as promised.

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“No, that’s not true,” Miller said as he quickly ascended the fire escape steps after tightening the hood on his jacket to conceal the top of his head.

“That’s not true,” Miller repeated, adding that the line of questions was “ridiculous.”

As he re-entered his apartment, Miller was finally asked if he wanted to come downstairs to give his explanation of what happened

“No, I don’t,” Miler added, as he closed the door and went inside.

Subsequently, Global News tried to reach Miller by telephone and, on a later day, rang his front door and left a message through his doorbell camera. Miller didn’t reply to any of those attempts.

After viewing the Global News video of Miller’s quick retreat, Jeff said he’s not surprised Miller didn’t agree to an interview.

“He has nothing to say, no justification for his actions,” Jeff said.

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As a result of what happened, Jeff says he’s had to hire other sub-contractors and pay tens of thousands of dollars more to get the renovation completed. The cost over-run and stress was not expected, he said.

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“It literally felt like someone dropped an atomic bomb,” he said, when asked to describe the experience.

Jeff went to police when Miller left but says he was told Miller hadn’t broken any criminal laws because he had done some of the earlier work.

“If someone goes to steal a chocolate bar, it’s criminal,” Jeff said, adding he’s not counting on getting any money back through the small claims court process, even if a judge orders repayment.

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