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Tiny house builder faces not-so-tiny allegations
Published Thursday, December 15, 2016 3:55PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, December 15, 2016 7:45PM MST
The plight of a Calgary-based contractor who was informed he would have to move his tiny house off a rural property west of the city brought the man media exposure while allowing his detractors to locate him and voice their concerns with his business practices.
Gregg Taylor, the owner of a small contracting company, says a slowdown in business allowed him time to build himself a self-sustaining, 14.9 sq. m. (160 sq.ft.) residence for himself and his dog.
Once the project was complete, Taylor rented five acres of land on a location on Springbank Road in Rocky View County and moved his home, which is on wheels, to the plot in early September.
Taylor told CTV he moved into the tiny home, which is equipped with solar panels and a wind turbine, on October 1. Days later, Taylor received a verbal enforcement notice stating he would have to movie his house by the end of November. According to the home builder, he would face a $1,500 fine if he did not comply.
On November 16, 2016, CTV Calgary aired Taylor’s story and published a photo gallery tour of his tiny house. Taylor had placed a banner on the exterior of his house advertising his company GHT Contracting.
Jacquie Smawley and Lesley Lopushinsky were among those who watched Taylor’s tale of woe but neither had sympathy for the tiny house owner.
According to Smawley and Lopushinsky, Taylor owes each of them thousands of dollars and they are not the only ones who have been swindled by the contractor.
“I was surprised he had the nerve to go on TV and claim to be a victim,” said Lopushinsky “He built his tiny home on the back of consumers like me.”
Lopushinsky says she hired GHT Contracting to renovate her basement in 2015 and her credit card was charged the $4,000 deposit. She opted to cancel the contract but Taylor did not return the money. Lopushinsky successfully sued GHT but she has been unable to collect the awarded sum as the company is now insolvent.
A search of corporate records indicated the process to dissolve the company is underway and GHT Contracting’s prepaid contractor’s license expired on November 30, 2016.
“There needs to be something out there to protect the consumer,” said Lopushinsky. “He can go out and just open another numbered company tomorrow and do this to somebody else.”
Smawley is currently in litigation with Taylor over alleged unfinished work and shoddy renovations to her basement.
According to Smawley, the contractor issued an ultimatum to her and her husband that she says amounted to blackmail. “Basically, he came into our house and said ‘I did give you four walls and I feel that I should get paid another amount of money and I will walk away and I will be out of your life and I won’t honour the warranty either’.”
The Smawleys refused to pay and work on their home ceased.
Smawley says she’s discouraged by the prospect of winning the lawsuit but not being able to collect from a dissolved business.
“It’s really upsetting. He can do that and walk away? If he wins in his judgment, my husband and I can’t just dissolve a company or a number and walk away and say that’s it.”
“Something needs to change for the consumer. We all work hard for our money. Why shouldn’t he work hard for his money? Why should it be an easy ticket for him or any contractor?”
CTV Calgary’s Consumer Watch reporter Lea Williams-Doherty sat down with Gregg Taylor and allowed him an opportunity to address the allegations. When asked why he failed to appear for the Lopushinsky court case, Taylor said the verdict was never in question.
“I knew there’d be a judgment against the company. It had already been dissolved. There was nothing left of it.”
Taylor said the dispute with Lopushinsky had gone to mediation but both sides refused to budge. “I didn’t have any money to pay her. I didn’t want to pay her.”
Williams-Doherty questioned Taylor’s decision to not pay his debts and the contractor said it was strictly a business decision.
“Let’s just say with Lesley or with Jacquie or with someone. that they get a judgment on that company and I just sold a job, collected a deposit and I was planning on starting next week. All of a sudden I go to purchase all of the materials for a job with someone’s money that they’ve given me to do that job but all of a sudden the bank account is garnished and all of that money is gone. Purely from a business perspective, it’s just a point of security for myself and for the clients that I do have.”
Taylor says the dissolution of companies is becoming more and more common in Calgary, and throughout Alberta, as unemployment numbers rise. The contractor mentioned he was in the process of creating another numbered company.
“There are these rules and regulations,” explained Taylor. “It’s never been my intention to take advantage of something so I can take advantage of someone. Literally, I had to throw my hands up in the air at one point and say I’ve got this much money yet I owe this much money and I don’t know what to do. It came to a point where, once there was nothing left, I just had to say sorry to a lot of people.”
Taylor says those impacted by his decision to dissolve his business “are all good people and that’s what hurts.”
“I do intend on making it right when I can and if I can,” said Taylor. “Even though this company is gone, it’ll just be on my own accord to make things right because there’s not going to be any legal obligation on myself personally or any future companies that I may have but it’s my intention to do it.”
Taylor says he will need a fresh start, under a new numbered company, to pay off his debts.
With files from CTV’s Lea Williams-Doherty