Homeowners warn of bogus Ottawa snow-clearing company

A group of Ottawa homeowners say they have been left to shovel after paying a snow-clearing company for a service that was not delivered.

One customer says she is being pursued by payday loan company after putting stop order on cheque

Several Ottawa homeowners say they paid for a snow removal service that never showed up. 4:35

Several Ottawa homeowners say they have been left to shovel after paying a snow-clearing company for a service that was not delivered.

Warnings about Yardman Property Maintenance and its owner John Powell have been posted on consumer websites — and the Better Business Bureau has given the operation an F rating.

Greg Aboukheir said he paid Yardman Property Maintenance $300 to clear his snow but the company only showed up a single time. (CBC)

Terri Robinson was battling pneumonia when her friends pooled $250 to hire Yardman to clear her driveway this winter. She was grateful for their generosity but the company never showed up, she said.

"I feel bad because they spent a lot of money. It was a nice gesture. Every time it snows, like this weekend, it's another kick in the rear end, if you will," Robinson said.

Greg Aboukheir said he gave Powell $300 for snow-clearing services. Though the Yardman sign is still on his driveway, Aboukheir said the company only showed up a single time to clear his snow.

"I just wish I never signed with him and I recommend to anybody ... not to deal with John Powell or Yardman, for that matter," Aboukheir said.

Customer ordered to pay loan company

One dissatisfied customer said she is being pursued by a large payday loan company after putting a stop-payment order on a $141 post-dated cheque to Powell.

Kyla Zimmermann said she didn't know that Powell was using the Cash Store as a kind of bank for his business — and that the company had already advanced him the value of her post-dated cheque.

Zimmermann said she should not have to pay for a service she did not receive.  

"When the big storm hit there was no sign of him," she said.

Zimmermann said it's "outrageous" that the Cash Store sent her a letter demanding she pay the full amount plus an additional $50 fee.

"First of we stopped the cheque, paid a stop-cheque fee to the bank, and here they are trying to fleece us for the amount of money for nothing. We didn't get any service," she said.

When Zimmermann called the Cash Store to protest, she was told, "we have to collect from someone and we can't get a hold of him," she said.

The Cash Store said that under the Federal Bills of Exchange Act, it has the legal right to pursue Zimmermann for the funds. 

Bills of Exchange Act needs reform: MP

NDP MP Libby Davies said she has been trying to change the Bills of Exchange Act for years. She tabled a private members bill back in 2008.

"When I started digging into it, I found it was a huge issue that so many home owners had put stop payments on cheques only to find out later that they were getting harassed by these cheque cashing businesses to pay back money that they had already done due diligence on by putting a stop payment on the cheque," Davies said.

Zimmermann said she is lucky the post-dated cheque was for a relatively small amount of money.

"This is terrifying because you can imagine anytime you write a post-dated cheque to anyone you think you have the control that you can stop this cheque when you need to. That's the protection of it and it's basically meaningless," she said.

She vowed never to write another post-dated cheque again.

Owner of Yardman can't be reached

The Yardman company address is a house on Baseline Road that has multiple tenants, including John Powell. In the driveway Monday was an old truck with a residential snow blower in the back, similar to the kind commercially available at a hardware store.

Powell could not be reached for comment. His voicemail is full and the message is out of date, wishing callers a Merry Christmas.

"I've been calling him a hundred times. I've sent a million text messages. Nothing," Aboukheir said.

Powell's brother told CBC that it's clear his brother's business is not going well because angry customers keep showing up at the house on Baseline Road.