Ottawa-area residents warn of deceptive contractor

Customers and trades people in eastern Ontario are warning others about what they say are the unscrupulous practices of a Renfrew, Ont., general contractor.
Phil Slobodzian declined repeated requests to be interviewed concerning his business practices. ((CBC))
Customers and trades people in eastern Ontario are warning others about what they say are the unscrupulous practices of a Renfrew, Ont., general contractor.

Phil Slobodzian is the owner of a company called PSC New Home Construction Inc. and has taken on jobs throughout the Ottawa Valley, including in the City of Ottawa.

But almost everyone CBC News spoke with who hired Slobodzian said he took their money and then either failed to show up to carry out the work, or did a poor job.

Diane Iadeluca, a spokeswoman with the Ottawa Better Business Bureau, said her organization has received numerous complaints about PSC, which has received an F rating from the business group.

"The owner of this company is requesting some very large deposits for jobs that he either doesn't show up for, or show up for a later date, doesn't complete or does shoddy work," said Iadeluca.

"The owner seems to have a good disappearing act, so he takes the money and takes off."

Work wasn't completed

Neil Herbert and his father hired Slobodzian to build a garage in the city's west end in March 2009. Slobodzian convinced them to pay $14,000 up front money for materials and services.

"We wrote him out a cheque to start the work and it just never happened, it just never happened," said Herbert. Eventually, he and his father built the garage themselves for about the same amount as they paid Slobodzian.

Ken Wu said work on his roof was so poorly done he had to pay another contractor to replace it. ((CBC))

Ken Wu hired Slobodzian to put a metal roof on his Ottawa home in the fall of 2009. Wu gave Slobodzian a $9,000 deposit before the job, and while the contractor did the work, Wu said it was a shoddy job and left unfinished. He said the roof was "worse than before." His request for a refund was ignored, and he has since paid to have the roof removed and redone.

Slobodzian has also drawn the ire of fellow contractors, some of whom claim he subcontracted them to do work and then never paid them.

"He didn't pay me, he ran off without paying me," said Michael Whelan, the owner of U.K. Roofing, who claims Slobodzian owes him $3,000 for a job he did in the summer of 2009.

"I said a few words, he said a few words to me then he said, 'There is always another sucker roofer around,'" said Whelan.

Slobodzian declined to be interviewed for this story.

Province has laid charges

In March, the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services laid charges against Slododzian and his company for failing to deliver a valid contract, false or misleading practices and failure to refund within 15 days. The case has yet to go to trial.

Some people who have taken Slobodzian to small claims court, say that despite rulings in their favour they have seen only some of the money or no money at all.

Murray Swaine, an Arnprior, Ont., eavestrough contractor, sued Slobodzian claiming he didn't get paid for a subcontracted job.

"I went to police and they wouldn't do anything for me, so I eventually took him to small claims court and chased him through the system serving him with papers, where he didn't show," said Swaine.

"I must have been in court 20 times," he said.

Swaine said he got the first small payment and nothing more.

Neil Herbert said he and his father also haven't "seen a dime" since winning a court decision.

Nigel McCready, an Ottawa lawyer who represents clients in small claims court, said the usual methods of taking payments after a small claims court decision are to garnish a person's wages or seize assets.

"The person has to have something you can take," said McCready.

"Unfortunately the court doesn't stop at the end of the trial, hang them up by the ankles and shake the money out of them."

Contractors CBC News spoke with said customers should be wary of those contractors who demand hefty deposits or money up front before any work is completed.

"If somebody wants a deposit off you, you are putting yourself at high risk," said Swaine.

With files from the CBC's Simon Gardner, Chris Goldrick