PEI·CBC Investigates

Frustrated customers await money that court says P.E.I. contractor owes them

Contractor Colton Chaulk has several judgements against him, involving money owed to customers for whom he didn't complete work, as well as to a building supply company.

Claims have been filed in court and Colton Chaulk owes about $80,000

The Benoits say holes were dug in the wrong place and work was never completed. (Michelle Benoit (submitted))

A P.E.I. contracting company owes thousands of dollars to people after either not completing jobs or doing them poorly, according to the contractor's customers and court documents. 

Colton Chaulk, owner of CWD Construction, is named in five different P.E.I. Supreme Court judgments viewed by CBC News. 

Documents filed in the last few years show him owing about $80,000 to former customers as well as a building supply store.

CBC talked to all of them, and only one reported being paid, saying they accepted an agreed-upon amount of $6,500 as opposed to the $10,800 claimed in court. 

Michelle Benoit says the experience has been devastating and she wants to warn others. (Michelle Benoit (submitted))

Michelle Benoit and her spouse Corina Benoit are still waiting to be paid about $34,000 after CWD Construction failed to insulate their mini home in Hunter River and put an addition on it. 

The Benoits live in Alberta, but bought the home hoping to eventually retire there, since they have family in P.E.I.

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While seeking a contractor, "we just looked on the internet, Facebook and Kijiji — mostly Kijiji," said Michelle Benoit. 

Chaulk provided contracts and asked for a deposit, and Benoit said everything seemed okay at first. However, when they asked for photos of the work he was supposed to be doing, and updates on the job, she said it was hard to reach him. 

The Benoits said their deck was ruined by Colton Chaulk and CWD Construction. (Michelle Benoit (submitted))

Before that, "he was asking for an awful lot of money, deposits for materials and such," she said. The couple said they used all their savings to get things rolling. 

Then a relative who stopped by the property told them nothing seemed to be happening. 

"We had thought that the work was getting done," Benoit said. "We started asking more questions as to why it hadn't been done." 

The Benoits hired another contractor to fix their home in Hunter River. (Michelle Benoit (submitted))

Benoit said holes were dug in the wrong spots around their mobile home and a deck was destroyed. It also appeared that someone had used a couple of cans of spray foam underneath the structure. 

They eventually took legal action, and a court judgment from November 2021 ruled they are entitled to about $34,000 from Chaulk.  As of late March, Benoit said they still hadn't received anything. 

"We're heartbroken. We're devastated," she said. "We feel we were ripped off."

Colton Chaulk's posts on Facebook include dozens of photos of various construction projects. (Colton Chaulk Facebook)

They ended up hiring another contractor to fix the problems. 

"We want him held accountable for what he's done," she said of Chaulk. "We want this to stop. We want this to not happen to anyone else." 

Garage project never started

Josh Tawil had just moved into a new modular home with his fiancee when he went looking for a contractor to add a single-bay garage with a loft. The 25-year-old said he likes to work on projects and "tinker" on automotive and welding projects, for fun and to bring in a bit of extra income. 

Tawil got a line of credit and gave Colton Chaulk two deposits totalling $27,500. Nothing was ever built on his property.

We'll probably never get that garage now. We'll never get that money back.- Josh Tawil

"We're just flabbergasted. We're just at a loss for words," Tawil told CBC News.

"We'll probably never get that garage now. We'll never get that money back." 

Tawil said Chaulk told him he had bought materials for the project, but when Tawil checked with the suppliers, he was told no orders had been made. He too took legal action and got a judgment against Chaulk in March.

He said he's lost a lot of sleep over what happened, and is beating himself up about handing over the deposit money. 

"I've got nothing to show for it," he said. "There's not a day that goes by that I'm not worried about it." 

Contractor responds

CBC News did speak to Colton Chaulk of CWD Construction to ask about the unhappy customers. He said he plans to pay people back, but didn't say when. 

When asked about the Benoits' case, he said they had cancelled the job after he had already bought materials, adding, "We're waiting for stuff to clear up before I can pay them back." 

When questioned about Tawil's case, Chaulk said: "That is being looked after."

Despite court documents that talk about the poor quality of his workmanship, and money not being returned for unfinished jobs, he said all his customers are satisfied.

Colton Chaulk advertises his services on Facebook and Kijiji. Over the years he has had a small engine repair business, a roofing business, and a general construction business. (Colton Chaulk Facebook)

"Everyone that I've done work for, I can go in and sit down at their supper table and eat a meal with them," said Chaulk.

When asked about the judgments in court, he said he was served papers, but didn't defend himself because he "didn't know nothing about it." The documents required Chaulk to file a defence in the claims. He never filed a statement of defence in any of them. 

Chaulk also said he sent money to two other people named in judgments, but CBC News confirmed with those two parties that they had not received the money. 

Claims against Chaulk and CMD Construction required his response. He did not file a statement of defence in conjunction with any of the claims. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Chaulk said a tractor was repossessed and his bank account has been frozen by the sheriff's department, so he can't access his money and is waiting to hear from the sheriff. 

He said he has also had problems with employees, and fired them due to bad workmanship.

"They are no longer with me," he said. "I've had to go back multiple times to fix things that they have done. It probably cost me a lot of money and cost me my name." 

He did confirm he was on site at the Benoits' property, as well as at Josh Tawil's home, and says he stands by the work he does. 

When asked to respond to the judgments against him, he said he was sick of dealing with "this crap" and added that CBC should do more research. 

"It's hurtful, very hurtful and a lot of it is unnecessary," 

He said he's certified as a Red Seal carpenter, an exam-based national standard demonstrating knowledge in the field, and he plans to keep working as a contractor.

But at the moment, he said, "I literally am by myself. I have no one working for me... because I can't find someone that's going to put out good workmanship like myself, and take pride in work...

"I'm not hiring Joe Blow off the street anymore." 

Construction Association says complaints common

Sam Sanderson of the Construction Association of P.E.I. could not comment on this case specifically but said the association gets complaints about contractors every other day. 

"Unfortunately we're hearing them too often," said Sanderson. 

The electrical and the plumbing trades are governed provincially, but you don't have to be a licensed contractor to build a building.- Sam Sanderson

The industry association has no jurisdiction to take any action on complaints. Sanderson said if people don't get anywhere with their contractor, or municipalities that deal with building code matters, legal action is the next logical step.

He said clear, defined contracts are also important. 

Sanderson says the construction association has asked the province for licensing to have a guaranteed standard for contractors.

"The electrical and the plumbing trades are governed provincially," he said, "but you don't have to be a licensed contractor to build a building." 

Sanderson said a formal licensing system would help protect both the industry and individual homeowners.