More than $7 billion will be spent on home renovations and improvement in B.C. this year, but the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association estimates that about one-third of that will be going to the underground economy.

“(Some homeowners) deal with cash deals with some fly-by-night renovator who promises to do it soon and cheap and without them paying taxes,” said Peter Simpson, CEO of the GVHBA. “If anything goes wrong, (the homeowners) are deemed by the law to be the contractors, so they’re liable for everything.”

John Friswell, president of both CCI Renovations and the GVHBA, said that when it comes to trying to get a renovation done under-the-table, horror stories are plentiful.

“There was one that I heard about where the guy did a job for about $30,000 — everything in cash — then turned around and sued the homeowner for not paying him,” he said. “The homeowner had to pay him (another) $30,000 because (the renovator) could prove that he did the work, but the homeowner couldn’t prove that he had paid him.”

Friswell said that those considering a renovation should go through reliable avenues such as the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation or the GVHBA. From there, they can ask for referrals, do background checks and have comprehensive discussions about what is affordable and realistic.

Homeowners should also expect a waitlist for reputable renovators.

“Some of our guys are booked into next year already,” said Simpson. “If someone bangs on your door and says, ‘I can start next week,’ there’s a reason that guy is able to start next week: He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Graham Reid, president of MP Construction Ltd., emphasized the importance of thorough planning effort before any action is taken.

“The best money spent will be the money they spend on organizing a blueprint,” he said.

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