Veteran with young family says he is out more than $20,000 after renovation nightmare
Moncton couple say Mark Charles and Roger Leblanc didn't do the work they were paid for
Military veteran Steven Dawe decided that with his third child on the way, it was time for some renovations to make more space in their Moncton house.
He and his partner Ashley Vaters hired two Moncton contractors to do the work for about $38,200, which Dawe planned to cover with his disability award.
Things quickly went downhill after the contracts were signed and the deposits paid.
The contractors were Mark Charles, who also goes by Mark Garland, and Roger Leblanc.
CBC News reported on Nov. 19 that Charles and Leblanc took a total of $48,000 from Leanna Leger of Meadowbrook but did not finish any of the promised work.
Two small claims court orders have also been issued against Charles, one from 2015, the other from last year, for taking money from two other clients but failing to complete the work.
Thought they did homework
And according to Dawe, the contractors, though working for him under the name, R.J. Const. and R.J. Leblanc Const. — the contracts with Dawe and Vaters were handwritten — are still taking money for jobs they don't finish.
"It's just all been complete lies from them," Dawe said.
"We did background checks, we searched their names, we called references, we looked at pictures of previous jobs," Dawe said.
The couple did some homework, but on top of that, Dawe said, Charles talked a good game.
"The way he sold it he made it seem you were in complete control of everything," he said.
"But very quickly the excuses started piling up."
Vaters signed two contracts with Charles. One signed on Oct. 20 was for a new deck, fence and front and back door, worth $18,200.
The second was signed on Nov. 1 and outlined interior work such as moving walls, adding a bedroom and putting in floors. This work was given a value of $20,400.
The couple paid just over $10,000 immediately after the contracts were signed.
Dawe said Charles and Leblanc began work the last week of October. He said they averaged only about three to four hours of work a day, always having a reason for not being at the job site.
7 months pregnant
After an early November snow, Vaters said, the contractors asked if they could work inside. She said she insisted the men finish the fence first, so she could put her dog outside while the interior work was being done.
Vaters said Charles and Leblanc suggested they bring a crew to the home on a Saturday to finish the fence.
Even though she was seven months pregnant, she helped prepare for the larger crew by removing snow.
"I went out and shovelled the entire perimeter of the fence, both of us did, all around the deck, all the wood out, everything for them to come in with the four people to do it.
"And he didn't show up."
Worked short days
When questioned about not finishing the fence, Charles threatened to leave if made to work outside, Dawe said.
"At that point in time, like I said, we were expecting a baby, having him walk off the job until the spring would have meant that I had no way of getting my upstairs done before the baby came."
Dawe and Vaters said the two men continued to put in short days, only managing to do a bit of demolition work, framing on the first floor, between the bathroom and the hall, and a bit of plumbing in the basement.
The couple were unhappy with what was happening, but the final straw came Nov. 30, when they realized they were paying for building supplies that were not in their house.
"Upon reviewing all of our home hardware bills we realized we had paid an extremely large amount of money for a lot of 3-inch x 12-foot ABS [pipes] that were not in my home."
"To the point that, we paid for 20 lengths of pipe. None of them were here."
According to the couple, this was far more pipe than was needed for the renovations.
Dawe said he called Home Hardware, then the RCMP. He asked the officer to phone Charles and tell him not to come back.
By this time, including deposits and materials for the interior work, Dawe and Vaters had spent $34,000 with no single project completed. After considering what materials were left behind and what they could return for refunds, the couple say they're out about $22,000.
The RCMP won't confirm whether there is an investigation.
Charles defends himself
Reached by CBC on the phone, Charles denied any wrongdoing. When asked about taking more than $20,000 from the couple, Charles said Vaters got her money's worth.
"She's got a deck up, she's got her fence all posted in, and all her materials are sitting in her yard, and all the materials in her house and all the renos we just did."
Charles said he was thrown off the job site.
"She called the police and had us tossed out of there. That's her prerogative. We did nothing wrong."
Charles called Vaters and Dawe "psycho."
Roger Leblanc could not be reached for comment.
With the contractors gone and he and Vaters out thousands of dollars, Dawe was left to survey the damage. He said nothing inside or outside the house was finished or even done well, including the deck and fence.
The bathroom floor was a piece of plywood and the first floor was crowded with sheets of gyprock.
Dawe said Charles ordered supplies from different Home Hardware stores across greater Moncton. Dawe would then go to the stores to pay with his bank card, and Charles would either pick up the supplies or they'd be delivered to Dawe's home.
Dawe said a review of all the receipts and credit memos from the stores suggested Charles and Leblanc would keep some supplies, never delivering them to the home, and remove some of what was delivered, to return them for a refund.
"I've purchased gate hardware three times, and he returned it three times," Dawe said. "I was angry at myself for the first couple of days."
Then he went into damage control to try to fix the situation as best he could.
Dawe's parents flew in from Newfoundland to help the family get the house back in working order as quickly and cheaply as possible. He and Vaters have been poring over receipts to put together a house insurance claim.
"I was extremely excited," he said. "This was our first home that we bought. We were finally able to go get our personal touches.
"When everything was said and done, we're out quite a bit of money and we're doing it ourselves."
With the baby due in March, the couple still don't have a new bedroom built. But they said they'll manage with the space they have.
There's one thing Dawe would like to see come out of the fiasco with Mark Charles.
"I want him stopped. At this point, he's just doing this to person after person. At some point it has to end."