Cowichan Valley homeowners allege contractor took deposits without finishing renovation jobs

CHEK

Three Cowichan Valley homeowners say they’re out tens of thousands of dollars each after a contractor didn’t complete renovation work.

In January 2022, Carol Dirom and her husband Bruce decided to undergo a large-scale renovation project to extend the deck at their Duncan home.

“My husband and I were going to be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary that summer, we were excited to host a barbeque,” said Carol Dirom.

After seeing some online advertisements, Dirom hired Terry Driedger of Blackthorn Timberframe to complete the job, putting down an initial 50 per cent deposit of $48,644 in February 2022.

“We did decide early on that we wanted to increase the amount of concrete, so we had that discussion with Blackthorn Timberframe,” said Dirom.

Later, Dirom agreed to add on to her initial deposit by an extra $15,000. In March 2022, she had paid Driedger more than $64,000 to complete the job.

“I thought it seemed a little much considering the deposit he already had, but again, we had signed a contract,” said Dirom.

In that same month, the contractor began work on the deck, removing portions to prepare for concrete footing installations, but soon after, the contractor began delaying the project.

In a lawsuit filed by the Diroms, they allege Driedger failed to complete the job by the agreed-upon date of April 2022 and say he broke the contract. The Diroms confronted Driedger about the project, and he claimed the project wouldn’t go ahead until they had proper permits.

“He had said there was no way he was coming back to our job site without a permit in place, that he never works without a permit in place,” said Dirom.

Court documents allege the Diroms were led to believe permits weren’t required for the project when they first signed the contract.

“The Defendant [Driedger] further represented that the renovation work contemplated by the Plaintiffs [Dirom’s] did not require building permits from the local municipality,” reads the court documents.

“Contrary to the representations of the Plaintiff, the renovation work did, in fact, require permits from the local municipality.”

During the next few months, the Dirom’s deck was compromised, but wanting to complete the job, they began the process of getting a permit for the job.

In October 2022, they finally received a permit for the job, however, after two months of communicating with the contractor, the Diroms say Driedger stopped responding and never completed the work.

“It was just further excuses, and the last time we heard from him was December 2022. Like we have not heard from Terry for 14 months. It’s just silence,” said Dirom.

The Diroms filed the suit against Driedger and Blackthorn Timberframe in April 2023, and after several unsuccessful attempts to serve him, a default judgment was granted against the contractor in January 2024, ordering Driedger to pay back the deposits.

To date, Dirom says the only work Driedger completed was installing some footing and gravel and removing some of the deck space.

“I don’t know if we’ll see any money. I hope that Terry does the right thing and, you know, pays us and other people back that he’s taken from us,” said Dirom.

Trouble close to home

Just a few doors down, Dirom eventually learned that her neighbour, Cal Kaiser, also hired Terry Driedger of Blackthorn Timberframe to install a gazebo. He entered into a contract with him in August 2022, putting down a more than $18,000 deposit.

Kaiser says he also wanted to increase the size of the project and agreed to pay another deposit totalling more than $33,000.

Kaiser says Driedger began to install the four footings in his backyard in May 2023.

“He said within two months, we’d have the structure built, we’d be good for the summer of 2023. Well, obviously, that never happened,” said Kaiser.

Kaiser says after several months of communicating with Driedger to find out when the project would be completed, he confronted the contractor at his workshop in Langford, asking about materials and when the project would be finished.

In December 2023, Kaiser claims Driedger told him the deposits had been spent on materials and that he could collect the material the following week.

“Within a couple days, I was able to locate a crane truck that would go get it for it, and it was like no response,” said Kaiser.

Since then, Kaiser says only some of the four footings and some gravel work have been completed, and he has not heard back from Driedger.

Previous issue with past clients

Online court filings show at least four other lawsuits have been filed against Driedger for unfinished renovation work, some dating back to 2018.

In one filing, a civil claim alleges a Langley woman paid Driedger more than $62,000 to perform renovation and construction services on a 15-foot trailer. The lawsuit says the project was supposed to be completed by November 2021.

Another suit filed by a Sannichton person alleges Driedger failed to finish a gazebo project by August 2023. The plaintiff says they paid $39,200 for the project.

Troy Osmond says he hired the contractor to build a gazebo at his Lake Cowichan home in April 2023, putting down a deposit of more than $18,000. But according to court documents filed, Osmond alleges Driedger never finished the project or purchased the materials by a deadline of “late summer 2023.”

“Up until that point, I was hearing from him almost every day. No issue via text, via phone call. After about a week, I wasn’t hearing from him at all,” said Osmond.

Court documents say Driedger showed up at his home on Oct. 13, 2023, without notifying Osmond, ready to start the project.

A week later, Osmond notified Driedger that he no longer wanted him to complete the job and requested a full refund.

Driedger’s response

During multiple phone calls with CHEK News between Feb. 5 and 6, Driedger denied the allegations and insisted that Osmond’s, Dirom’s, and Kaiser’s projects weren’t completed because they all failed to get proper permits ahead of time.

He adds that he has completed countless jobs in the region with satisfied customers.

After being contacted by CHEK News, Driedger contacted Dirom and Kaiser, offering to complete the unfinished jobs or pay back their deposits.

On Feb. 20, CHEK News tried to contact Driedger but did not get a response. According to the leasing office, his workshop in Langford has now been put up for lease, and he no longer has that location.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that Terry Driedger contacted Troy Osmond to finish his project or pay back his deposit. Osmond tells CHEK News that never happened.

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