Two years and $42K later, Winnipeg woman's basement renovation still not done
Friends got together and helped build a fence removed by contractor to get materials in
A Winnipeg woman is in limbo and her hopes are fading that a basement renovation will ever be finished.
Mukai Muza hired a contractor two years ago to add a suite in her basement to help provide income since health problems have prevented her from working.
Muza is a single mother of two and has been on a disability pension since 2014. She heard about a provincial grant program that reimbursed homeowners half the cost to build a secondary suite up to $35,000, so she jumped at the chance.
Muza said the contractor she paid to do the work has still not completed the job. It's left her home in shambles and her basement uninhabitable.
"It's not a good situation, like it's heavy. I feel like my home is no longer my home. I don't like being here anymore because I don't know what's going on," Muza said.
Muza signed an agreement with a contractor recommended by a friend, to have a self-contained apartment with a separate entrance built in her basement on May 26, 2014.
She said the contract also included the construction of a laundry room and pantry on the main floor in the corner of her tiny kitchen because she would no longer be able use her basement.
She said the contractor agreed to hide the washer and dryer behind a sliding door so it wouldn't be visible from the kitchen table, All of that was supposed to be done in six weeks from start to finish.
'It was going to be about $20,000'
But that didn't turn out to be the case. Instead Muza said the bill increased to $42,000 after the contractor went to get the necessary city building permits.
"He came back to me and said 'you know what, it's going to have to be more money because this is going to be a lot of other things I didn't anticipate,'" said Muza.
Muza agreed to a payment schedule that would require her to give the contractor money every other week before he would start the work. So she paid $2,000 on June 5, another $10,000 on June 6 and on July 10, she said he wanted more money, so she gave another $7,000.
By August 25, 2014 Muza said she had paid the contractor a total of $20,000. In return, she said he came to the home and completed the demolition of the basement and kitchen corner in three days, then began demanding more money.
Feeling bound by the contract she signed, Muza said she did as she was instructed and paid the remainder of the $42,000 by the end of January 2015.
Muza said she borrowed the money from a friend. She planned to pay the money back when she rented the new basement apartment.
"He said this project was supposed to take six weeks that's all it was going to take," Muza said it's now going on two years and she fears the renovations will never be finished.
Muza said every time she calls the contractor he tells her he'll be there next week, but never comes.
'It leaves me in limbo'
The contractor finished framing the basement apartment and mapped out all the rooms. He also did the electrical and plumbing. But has not been to the property since April 20, 2015, Muza said.
"How do you sit with a kitchen which shows your guests all the brooms all the sticks, every mop everything that you are using when that should be covered. How do you sit with a basement that you think you'd been renting," she said.
'This is a godsend for me'
"It's a very desperate situation and it shouldn't be like this, and why it's happening, I guess I just don't fully understand. But I would like to make it different," said Muza's long-time friend Paul Kroeker.
On Friday, Kroeker got a group together to build the fence.
"This is a really remarkable woman. She's actually been a real gift in my life," said Kroeker. "It makes it feel like there's an injustice being done and when I see that I like to make things right."
Kroeker said his goal is to see the renovations completed and his friend in a better place, financially and emotionally.
"You know when hope starts to roll, it's going to grow. So I wanted to do one little thing that would be hopeful," said Kroeker.
For that Muza is grateful.
"This is a godsend for me. I've been stuck and there is no movement," she said.
"I've had that back fence there open like that for the whole year, wind blowing and you know people looking through my kitchen from outside, so the fence project is a good start and my prayers is that the basement will be completed too. This is the gift I'm being given," Muza said.
CBC News tried to reach the contractor. None of our calls were returned.