Two years and $42K later, Winnipeg woman's basement renovation still not done

A Winnipeg woman said she paid for renovations two years ago and they still haven't been finished. Mukai Muza is a single mother of two on a disability pension. In 2014, she hired a contractor to build an apartment suite in her basement that she could rent out for additional income.

Friends got together and helped build a fence removed by contractor to get materials in

Mukai Muza hired a contractor two years ago and paid $42,000 to have her basement completely renovated. She says the contractor still hasn't done the work. (CBC)

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. 

Mukai Muza was hoping to have this unfinished basement suite transformed into an additional suite, which she planned to rent out to help supplement her income. (CBC)
"I'm a very sick person and so I thought to myself if I renovate my basement that would be a source of income for me to be able to manage, you know with my bills and my children," said Muza. "But now for almost two years now nothing is happening of that sort."

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'

Mukai Muza's friend Paul Kroeker brought a group together to build her a fence, after the contractor hired to renovate her basement tore it down. (CBC)
"In the beginning it was going to be about $20,000, you put in $20,000 and you get $20,000 back and so I thought this is a good thing," said Muza.

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.

Muza said the contractor was supposed to build an enclosed laundry room/pantry at the back of her kitchen but did not complete the job.
Muza said he told her "in December you need to pay $7,000, in January you need to pay another $7,000 and before the end of January you have to pay everything to me." 

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'

"It leaves me in limbo, because this is a contract. I cannot move on I don't know what are my rights legally. I don't know what I can do to solve this problem. I need money, some of the money he has. I need it so that I can finish the project." Muza said. 
Paul Kroeker shows Muza's unfinished basement. Muza said she paid $42,000 last year to have it fully renovated but the contractor still hasn't done the work. (CBC)

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'

Muza has also been living without a fenced-in backyard since last December. The contractor had taken it down to bring in equipment for the renovations but said he would build it back up when he was finished the work.
These men volunteered their time to build Muza's fence when asked by her friend Paul Kroeker. (CBC)

"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.

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Born and raised in Toronto, Caroline has always had a love for news. She began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show and later worked at stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto. In 2007, she headed to Winnipeg and now calls the Prairies home. Email: