Province investigating more complaints about home renovator

A disgraced former financier and real estate agent, who switched to home renovations, is now being investigated by the Alberta government after complaints from homeowners who say they are owed thousands of dollars

Disgraced former financier’s list of unhappy customers growing

Vicky Middleton shows the CBC's Mark Harvey the unfinished work in her basement suite. (CBC )

A disgraced former financier and real estate agent, who switched to home renovations, is now being investigated by the Alberta Government after complaints from homeowners who say they are owed thousands of dollars.

The province is warning citizens against hiring Dedric Robinson, who solicits renovation work under the banners of The Improvement Source, Capitol Renovations, Capitol Contractors and Capitol Abatement.

Service Alberta is investigating three complaints made against Robinson made from Dec. 2013, where homeowners allegedly paid Robinson between $6,500 and $19,000 for work that was never completed.

The complaints allege shoddy and unfinished work, failing to provide a refund when required by law, and operating without a pre-paid contractor’s licence.

Homeowners further allege Robinson didn’t take out proper building permits, failed to pay sub-contractors and placed liens on their property.

In October, 2013, Robinson was the subject of a Go Public investigation after a homeowner complained Robinson collected $400 from him in advance for a plumbing job, then failed to do any work or repay the money.

Contractors in Alberta

After calls from Go Public, Robinson repaid the money.

Before turning to renovations, Robinson was a high-flying real estate promoter who claims to be a former vice-president of a U.S. bank.

Robinson’s  fall from grace in Canada was spectacular.

His company, LibertyGate Investment Corp., had raised millions from Canadian investors for condominium projects in Edmonton, Cold Lake and Regina..

In 2011, Robinson filed for bankruptcy and was also fired by an Edmonton real estate company for “unethical practice.”

In May, 2013, the Alberta Securities Commission permanently banned LibertyGate, and also  banned Robinson from trading for 20 years, ordering him to play over a quarter million dollars in penalties.

Court records show he remains in bankruptcy after a judge denied his discharge from his debts.

Retired couple lost life savings on half-finished reno

66 year-old Vickie Middleton wanted a basement suite so she and her 83 year-old husband could hire a live-in caregiver.

“Our health has been going downhill and we want to age in place as much as we can,” Middleton said.

In June, 2013 she hired The Improvement Source.

“(Robinson) was wonderful, smooth...he dressed well. He seems so professional.”

Middleton says Robinson assured them he would get all the necessary development, plumbing and electrical permits.

Middleton says Robinson estimated the cost at $25,000 and promised to leave a copy of the contract the next day. Robinson requested 50% of the cost up front to pay for materials.

Middleton gave him a cheque for $13,125 immediately, and on August 15 made a second payment, of $6,500.

Middleton became increasingly uneasy when she didn’t see either the contract or the building permits and after Robinson became harder to reach when she expressed concerns about the quality of the work.

In September, the City of Edmonton ordered work on electrical wiring to stop after discovering the electrician was only a second year apprentice working without supervision or permits.

“And it stayed like that,” Middleton said, “because I insisted on permits and I insisted on a copy of my contract and I got nothing. Nothing to this date.”

Middleton says she was never able to reach Robinson again.

She says on Dec.13, “Michael”, who had been acting as the project manager, told her Robinson was walking away from the job.

Customers won’t pay bills says contractor

Dedric Robinson is unapologetic about about walking away from the Middletons’ job claiming they owe him money and won’t allow workers on to the property.

“There is no reason for us to be talking about Victoria Middleton, because they don’t pay their bills,” Robinson said.

“We enjoy our work, but we don’t like working for free.”

Middleton has provided Go Public with copies of two cancelled cheques, one for $13,125 paid to Dedric Robinson personally, another for $6,500 to The Improvement Source, as well as the stop work order from the City of Edmonton.

The Middletons’ is one of three investigations Service Alberta is conducting into Robinson.

Kate Lee’s is another.

She also hired Robinson to finish her basement.

She says much of the work was poorly done and stopped when Robinson failed to address faulty work.

On December 9, 2013 Robinson slapped a builder’s lien on Lee’s house for the full $11,000 of the contract, even though Lee had already paid $7,000.

“Never at any point did he say sorry. It was always our fault.” Lee said.

Doesn’t have proper licence

Robinson required Middleton and Lee to pay 50% of the contract price up front.

Alberta Law says anyone who solicits money before work is done and negotiates a contract anywhere other than his or her place of business must have a Prepaid Contracting Licence.

Robinson is not licenced and repeatedly deflected Go Public’s questions about why.

Dedric Robinson says he’s not aware of the government investigations and complaints against him.

“If you’ve only got three complaints I’d says that’s probably pretty good,” he told Go Public..

Builder’s work “scabbed together” says inspector

The work done at Middleton’s house so far isn’t worth saving, according to another builder Middleton hired.

“In my opinion it would be a full gut. Tear it all out and start again,” said Ryan Billard, of Infrared Home and Building Solutions.

“It’s basically what we call scabbed together. Nothing here is right.”

Billard identified areas where mould is likely to form and where the carpentry is so poor it would be impossible to hang a door.

“From poor design all the way to the workmanship,” he said. “Anyone who comes into this basement would say the same thing.”

Contractors not paid for work

Go Public has spoken to several employees who say they are owed thousands of dollars by Robinson.

In a rambling interview Robinson put the blame on the employees for doing poor or unfinished work  or on customers who failed to pay him.

Carpenter Jacqueline Kerr was hired by Robinson to do three jobs.

She says she was never paid the $3,500 she is owed for framing work at Kate Lee’s and believes she only got paid for the other two jobs because she confronted Robinson at his home.

“I believe he’s a crook,” Kerr said. “Whether or not you get paid, you have to pay your employees, and I’m the one who supplied all the labour and materials.”

“He shouldn’t be allowed to do business. At all. Ever.”

Licence contractors, publicize shoddy contractors’ names say Alberta Liberals

The leader of the Alberta Liberals says he’s signed a motion calling on the government to require all contractors to be licenced, and to create a registry of businesses that are charged or are being investigated, similar to the Ontario Consumer Beware List.

“With a registry people can see who’s a good builder, a reputable builder and who’s not,” Raj Sherman said.

“You have many vulnerable seniors, hard-working Albertans, who can lose their life-savings on the most important investment in their life.”

Mike Berezowsky, spokesman for Service Alberta, says such a “bad apples” registry would not have included Robinson in time to help the Middletons because they were among the first complainants.

Vickie Middleton hopes Sherman’s idea will help others even if it’s too late for her.

“This is everything we had,” Middleton said.

“I have no way of finishing this job. None. This is going to stay this way until a miracle from God comes, because there’s no way we can do it.”