Mike Holmes, Marketplace & Max Pies – How not to get nailed by bad contractors

While researching hiring home improvement contractors, I stumbled on this insightful online video featuring Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes on CBC Marketplace, a Canadian consumer affairs / investigative journalism show.

How not to get nailed … No one sees more renovation ripoffs than Mike Holmes. Marketplace uses hidden cameras to expose a contractor responsible for the latest disaster he’s fixing.

Marketplace sets the Sting

“The real deal on Home Contractors … Home Improvement Horrors … Hidden Camera Job Quotes … Who to trust … One very questionable character.” Oh boy, I can’t wait.

The show seemed to have 2 goals. First to set up a “test” to illustrate to viewers how to weed out the good from the bad contractors, what to look for. And second, to “bait a trap” for one particularly bad contractor (Leo Dos Reis of Max Pies Home Improvements), who crops up time and time again in complaint email to Mike Holmes from disillusioned homeowners.

The contractors job quote and interview segment is instructive and revealing but not terribly surprising. None of them quite measured up to Mike Holmes’ wish list … but then his standards are pretty high.

The Max Pies expose and sting operation, however, is brutal. Mike Holmes investigates the job and points out how the home is now unsafe, how the room built for the family baby could endanger her health, and how the house doesn’t meet building code.

Wendy Mesley of Marketplace interviews unhappy homeowners. And investigates the misleading Max Pies web site which is revealed to use photos of work by other contractors without their permission. How one contractor has tried repeatedly to have his photos removed even to the point of engaging a lawyer, without success.

A Very Questionable Character Caught in the Act

Leo Dos Reis, the owner of Max Pies Home Improvements, is the “very questionable character” mentioned in the teaser. FYI, Max Pies Home Improvements in Canada is not affiliated with the similarly named US flooring company.

Leo Dos Reis - Are you licensed?

The piece de resistance is the video sting of Dos Reis in action – the sales pitch, the misleading actions and statements about his license and qualifications, the customers he claims to have worked for who’ve never heard of him, the protestations about his reputation, the over-priced estimate, and the high pressure sales tactics.

Turns out Mr. Dos Reis has been charged with 14 counts of fraud. Marketplace tried to meet with him but he beat a hasty retreat when he saw the cameras. Apparently, he was supposed to be in court again last week. I checked out the local home improvement rating & reviews site and he has a solid 3 Star Rating in spite of the above. Interesting. Very interesting indeed.

Summary Judgment

Five Star piece of reporting by Marketplace, irrespective of the city you live in; highly recommended viewing if you are considering hiring a home improvement contractor.

The episode originally aired in January but you can see all the videos on the Marketplace site – including a March update on the story. Apparently Dos Reis is now running Platinum Home Renovations – with the same photos and content. He is still also going to court. All of which makes him Canada’s poster boy for bad home improvement contractors. You can find out more about the charges by searching the Consumer Beware database for “Max Pies” then clicking on DOS REIS, LEONARDO. Searching for “leo dos reis” won’t bring anything up, due to the way the search is designed.

DOS REIS, LEONARDO
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – FRAUD, 13 CHARGES ON 2006/05/03
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – ATTEMPT FRAUD, 1 CHARGE ON 2006/05/03
CRIMINAL CODE – CCC – FRAUD, 1 CHARGE ON 2007/04/04

For more info about crusading contractor Mike Holmes check out the Mike Holmes -Wikipedia entry and the Holmes on Homes website. Holmes on Homes airs on the Discovery Home channel in the US and HGTV in Canada.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 at 4:47 pm and is filed under Consumer Action, Consumer Beware, Contractor Complaints, Hiring a Contractor, Home Improvement, Mike Holmes, Ratings, Remodeling, Renovations, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

10 Comments so far

  1. I just saw the show concerning Max Pies Home Renovation. I hope this guy gets nailed to the wall. I cannot believe, how he can con innocent people out of their hard earned money. I called Max Pies with this # 1-416-999-9659. I ask for Max pies and the man informed me this is the wrong #.
    I wanted to say I hope you get what’s coming to you!
    I feel sorry for the people he has taken.

  2. What is the city of Toronto doing? It’s obvious they are part of this scam by allowing people like Mr. Reis to continue operating within their city limits.
    I like Mike Holmes but he’s not a lawyer and when you have a guy like Mike who can tell you that no charges really sticks because of the way the laws are designed, THAT should be a redflag to city halls across the country and start a crackdown. We saw it recently within the financial industries, the SEC is cracking down, the question is why is it allowed when it comes to trades…?
    My question is this: Is city hall part of this scam?
    If they’re not, then they should start to crack down. If they are, things will remain the same way it’s always been and we can only hope that Mike Holmes or the likes of him are available for our renos.

  3. David Rene de Cotret:

    I hope this guy gets nailed to the wall. I cannot believe, how he can con innocent people out of their hard earned money. I called Max Pies with this # 1-416-999-9659. I ask for Max pies and the man informed me this is the wrong #.

    David, it looks like Max Pies is out of business, for now. The infamous Max Pies website is gone and so is the one for Platinum Home Renovations. Mr. Dos Reis seems to be laying low but no conviction has been posted as of yet in the Consumer Beware database.

    With it being such a high profile case and the evidence on tape, I am hoping they get a conviction.

  4. Alain:

    What is the city of Toronto doing? It’s obvious they are part of this scam by allowing people like Mr. Reis to continue operating within their city limits.

    Alain, I can understand your absolute frustration with the situation. However, I’m not I can agree that City Hall is part of the scam, as tempting as it might be. More like “errors of omission”.

    Toronto City Hall is a big bureaucracy where sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. First of all, for City Hall to be aware of a contractor “operating within their city limits”, the contractor has to register for a Building Renovator license. That’s how they get in the system. But if Max Pies didn’t register (as per Marketplace), tended to actually subcontract the work, and avoided getting building permits, how would City Hall know about them? And if homeowners aren’t checking on contractors before they hire, I can begin to see how a Max Pies / Leo Dos Reis would be able to get away with what he did for so long. Toronto doesn’t have easy access to contractor license info online like other major cities/states (New York City, California).

    Toronto City Hall does record contractor complaints … but if the company isn’t in the system, then where does the complaint go? I will look into it. The Consumer Beware database is not attached to Toronto City Hall.

    I like Mike Holmes but he’s not a lawyer and when you have a guy like Mike who can tell you that no charges really sticks because of the way the laws are designed, THAT should be a red flag to city halls across the country and start a crackdown.

    I like Mike Holmes too … but I think some of his statements are generalizations. Having gone through the Consumer Beware database (just for fun over here at RenoCheck.com :) ), there have been convictions. I’m sure he has good reasons for his assertions but it would be helpful to understand why “charges don’t stick”. I will look into that also.

    The thing I wonder about (and this will be a future blog post) is that Mike Holmes himself has probably received more complaints about Max Pies and bad contractors than City Hall or the Consumer Beware database combined, long before the Marketplace episode was taped and broadcast. To quote Wendy Mesley “[Mike Holmes] gets more than a 1000 emails a week from people complaining about shoddy workmanship”. That’s a lot of complaints. But as the policy on his show is to never name the bad contractors, in a perverse way, his “silence” has also allowed these bad contractors to keep going, including Max Pies. It’s Marketplace we have to thank for putting Max Pies out of business (for now anyway); they dared to name names.

    My question is this: Is city hall part of this scam? If they’re not, then they should start to crack down.

    The reason there hasn’t been a major crackdown is because, believe it or not, things just haven’t got bad enough in Toronto. Not enough people are complaining to the right channels for the resources to be allocated to begin to solve the problem or for the laws to be changed.

    Complaining to Mike Holmes may make for educational television but it doesn’t change laws or get resources allocated for enforcement / prevention. We have to complain to our local governments and en masse. New York City had worse problems, more complaints, and probably more of an outcry. Now New Yorkers also have better legal protection. Same with the state of California and the California Licensing Board. But it’s still not enough, resources to support the laws are always a challenge, even when the laws have been put in place. Homeowners cannot realistically expect the government to do everything for them. The best thing we can do to protect ourselves is to get educated and do our homework before we hire.

  5. There’s not much anyone can do with these home renovation scams when laws protect the contractors rather than the homeowners. They say that as long as the contractor does work in or around the vicinity of your home it’s a civil matter.
    Mike’s general interest is first educating the public about what to look out for in these home renovation con-artists and then to change consumer laws to protect homeowners.

  6. Celeste said:

    There’s not much anyone can do with these home renovation scams when laws protect the contractors rather than the homeowners. They say that as long as the contractor does work in or around the vicinity of your home it’s a civil matter.

    It depends on what kind of “scam” it is. In Toronto, if the contractor is operating without a license, that’s a charge that will stick. On the other hand, if it’s a shoddy workmanship or incomplete work, that ’s a civil matter just like it would be for any other type of non home improvement contractor – at the moment.

    Mike’s general interest is first educating the public about what to look out for in these home renovation con-artists …

    Agreed! He does a wonderful job!

    … and then to change consumer laws to protect homeowners.

    Now this is news to me … but I would love hear more! My Google searches haven’t turned up anything on that. Celeste can you send me a link? To sandra [at] renovine.com. Thanks.

    It would make sense if Mike Holmes was actively involved in some sort of consumer action for legislative change but on the other hand, he already has a lot on his plate and it’s a lot of work, he’s got an empire to run, I don’t think he’s taken that on as of yet. If the story was out there, it should turn up on routine Google searches or in his PR.

    But Mike if you’ve got the ear of government, tell ‘em they need to enact laws like New York City (I Love NY!! The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs rocks!)

    The DCA vigorously enforces City rules that protect consumers stuck with unfinished, shoddy work by home improvement contractors (HICs). The number one targets of complaints received at the DCA are HICs who renege on their contracts, or work without a license.

    Licensed contractors must … contribute $200 to the Home Improvement Contractor Trust Fund at the time of application and each time they renew, or post a bond. The DCA’s Home Improvement Trust Fund reimburses homeowners – up to a maximum of $15,000 – who hired a licensed contractor that subsequently damaged their home and went out of business or left town.

    It’s like “insurance” for your renovation and the contractors pay for it! IF you hire a licensed contractor.  Which goes back to doing your homework before you hire.

  7. dear sir,

    I contracted with a heating contractor to change our furnace from oil to gas.
    I told the contractor I wanted a cirtificate of insurance before he started any work. He said he would get it asap, now he doesn’t want to get me the cirt. and he refuses to return a $300.00
    deposit we gave him. Please advise, I’m from Miami, Fl. and don’t know anybody here to advise me . rrai2 [at] rogers.com

    Regards,
    Rodney Arnold

  8. I stumbled across this while searching to find out if a contractor was truly licensed and how does one do that in Toronto. The renovations done on the home I just bought were terrible, and we were told they were done by a licensed electrician. HA! The dryer was a fire hazard, electrical boxes were hidden by drywall (and the drywaller and the electrician are brothers), and we have no recourse. In some states in the US the previous home owner would be lible for the poorly done work (part of a lemon law to protect the home buyer), but here we are just stuck with the mounting bills for fixing all of the problems we uncover. So how does one find a LICENSED Contractor, and where can I check out what other people have to say about their work?

  9. Many of us are having the same problem in San Antonio, Texas, with a contractor named Scott Hardin, who is basically a salesman for Hardin Builders, AKA 5-H Remodeling. There are 7 permits issued to this company by the City of San Antonio (not including mine), since April 2007, and none have had any inspections done and I know for a fact that several of these customers have filed complaints against 5-H Remodeling for breach of contract.
    The city does not seem to have any policy or procedures in place to monitor buildling permits, so we (citizens) are pretty much fed to these fraudulent contractor wolves.

  10. How can a home owner fight back when taken in by bad contractors? Recently a man and his som told us the father had 22 years of experience. We hired them to remodel a bedroom for us. After it was to late and the damage was done we realized they didn’t know anything about remodeling. The didn’t know how to use a miter box. Didn’t know how to apply drywall tape and do the mudding. Didn’t know how to skim or apply the texture and do the knock down. They used the wrong trim and then used the wrong chaulk that couldn’t be painted. Plus they couldn’t chaulk properly. It was rough and a mess. The ceiling paint is on the walls and the wallpaint is on the ceilings. Everything is a mess. They were paid $4,000.00 to create this mess. It is going to cost us $1,600.00 to have the whole room done over. The name of the company is “Aldaco Renovation & Construction”. Their names are Efren Aldaco Sr. and his son is the same being a Jr. Their address is 11677 Valley Ave., Collinsville,Ok. 74021. When I complained to the son about the bad job they had done his reply was they finished the job. I said to him but the results were really bad His answer was, that wasn’t our agreement. I am livid. Wheather I get anything back or not, how can I stop them from continuing to victimize others?

  1. Search Blog

  2. Subscribe

    • Google Reader or Homepage
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Add to My MSN
    • Add to My AOL
    • Add to del.icio.us
    • Subscribe to RSS 2.0
    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • Furl It
    • Subscribe in Rojo

  3. Add to Technorati Favorites
  4. Popular Posts

  5. Recent Posts

    1. New LED Under Cabinet Lights from DEKOR
    2. Worth reading: Ebuild’s 2009 Most Valuable Products
    3. Green Appliances: Energy efficiency makes a difference
    4. Does this energy efficient lightbulb make me look fat? Women shun CFLs in droves.
    5. Product Recall: Sauder Woodworking TV Stands Can Collapse
    6. Video: Good and Bad Home Remodeling Investments
    7. Concrete vs. asphalt driveways – which is better?
    8. Product Recall: Black & Decker GH1000 Grasshog XP String Trimmer / Edgers
    9. Do you need extra insurance during your renovation?
    10. ZZZerious emerging home trend: the snoring room
  6. Categories

  7. Archives