THE INVISIBLE UNDERPINNING

by JACK TOROSSIAN, OWNER AND FOUNDER, GOLDEN BEE HOMES

In March 2016, a lady called us—she had horizontal cracks on the main floor and diagonal cracks on the second floor of her home in Toronto. We came in to look and I said, “Something’s wrong with the foundation; the cracks shouldn’t go this way.”

Well, she’d had a renovation the year before where a cabinetmaker had removed the walls on the main floor. I asked if she got a permit, but she said no. I asked, “Is he a licensed, insured contractor with RenoMark or BILD?” Same answer.

She said she was a lawyer but not in this field. She had a simple contract for the parts and kitchen work, but nothing for the underpinning work.

I said, “The wall that was removed was a structural wall and that the span is too big, and that’s why you’re having cracks on the ceiling of the main floor. And you have a problem with your foundation of your addition.”

She said, “No, it has been underpinned.” So I asked, “Do you have a permit for it?” She said no. I asked, “How did you pay for it?” And she said cash for that section, but that she had emails confirming the work had been done, and thought that I was just “trying to make extra work.”

I said, “I’ll pay for this part—I want to see if it was underpinned properly.” So we went under the deck, and on our knees we starting digging down—and there was no underpinning at all. The people just took her money and ran away. They charged her a ridiculous amount for that small section of an addition. And I said, “We’ll need a structural engineer.” She tried to get in touch with her contractor, but he didn’t pick up
the phone. So we applied for a permit, underpinned that section properly, removed the drywall on the second floor, did the framing and spray -foamed everything, installed new wiring on the second floor and fixed the problem. After that, just to help her out, we recorded all this with photos and reports from the structural engineer, myself and the architect, and gave it to her and said, “Now you’ve got a case. You have to go after this contractor so he doesn’t do this to someone else.”

The contractor hired his  own lawyer, (but there were always delays). The first time we went to court he said his mother-in-law had just passed away. The second time a very close member of his family had died. After that the judge said to the guy’s lawyer, “Every time you come here, someone’s gotten killed. Next time bring me proof, or else you’re in trouble!” A day before the judgment, the contractor settled. But my client probably would have saved $21,000 if she’d just gone with me first. Ten or 15 years ago, I was doing a project in west -end Toronto. The homeowner from a house down the road said he’d like me to do their basement wiring. He said he had a family member who lived next door and asked if I could give them a deal for doing both. I said, “Sure, I’ll do it for $12,000 each.” The profit was only going to be about $2,000—no exaggeration. But after a couple days he called and said, “No thanks— we found a cheaper guy.” I said, “OK, good luck—I was giving you a warranty too.”

While we were still working on the first house, that guy passes by and says, “Jack, can you come over again?” So I go over there and I see two rows of wires on the ground. They paid the electrician $5,000 for each house, and now couldn’t find him. I said, “Electricians have licence numbers; you can track him.”

So they tracked him through the electrical gafety authorities and this guy shows up, and the authorities say, “Is this the guy who took your money?” And they said, “No!”

The number belonged to another contractor. Putting licence numbers on trucks became an Electrician with Association rule, but I think it’s a really stupid rule. The (perpetrator) took one of those numbers and put it on an invoice and went out there and started cheating people. They never found him.