It all started when Lana Caulfield sold her up-island home and bought a condo in Sidney, planning to renovate her new home to start a new chapter of her life.
Upon taking possession of the condo on June 30 of last year, she found it difficult to find a contractor. When she was introduced to Lance Williams by his sister, and assured that Williams was not only available but an accomplished contractor, she thought her renovation problems were solved.
“I was told he was in town renovating lots of condos and I went and saw some of the work he’d done at his sister’s home and at his mother’s condo and it looked pretty good, so I hired him. We even became sort of friends and we even took him and his wife out for dinner,” recalled Caulfield.
But there were some red flags for Caulfield when Williams asked for significant advance payments in cash and was vague on some of the details of the work. Even so, she made what was supposed to be a final payment of $18,000 to Williams on December 3 and left on a four month Mexican vacation, returning in April. She said she left Williams to act as the general contractor and complete the work.
By that time, he’d been paid approximately $96,000. But when Caufield returned to Sidney, she discovered she’d been scammed.
There was a stop work order on the property that had been initiated by the municipality when a subcontractor on the job discovered Williams did not have the proper permits in place for work he was doing. Plumbing work that had been done was not up to code and Caufield said the general workmanship on the property was “sub-standard.”
“He’d cut through firewalls to move plumbing and installed a toilet without a wax ring and had been using that toilet. The people in the condo below had significant water damage and they may have to remove their ceiling to remove material contaminated with raw sewage,” explained Aaron DeYaeger of North Saanich Plumbing, one of the subcontractors hired by Williams to rough in plumbing at the worksite.
“We roughed in the lines but then he (Williams) came and changed things and installed fixtures and none of it was up to code. It was a mess and all had to be redone,” said DeYaeger.
Similar problems surfaced with other work performed by Williams.
“The ceiling in the living room isn’t the proper material and doesn’t meet fire code and all has to be ripped out. The flooring wasn’t properly installed and the in-floor heating units were actually scorching the flooring material. It would have eventually caught fire,” said Mike Barnyard, the new general contractor, now working to remedy the problems.
“He could have burned this whole complex down.”
When contacted by the Peninsula News Review, Williams vehemently denied he was ever the general contractor on the job, claiming that 75 year-old Caulfield was the general contractor (despite the fact that she was in Mexico at the time). He admitted grudgingly to being the general contractor on the job.
He also claimed he hadn’t been paid for the job, but when told the PNR has a copy of the final payment receipt he’d signed, he backtracked on that claim as well.
“I did this job as a favour. I’m a carpenter and this job just snowballed out of control beyond what I was familiar with,” said Williams, still insisting others were to blame for the poor, and potentially hazardous, workmanship in Caulfield’s condo.
“That’s complete BS, the things that were wrong and dangerous, were things he was responsible for,” said DeYaeger.
Work is currently under way to undo the damage. That remedial work is estimated at an additional $60,000.
As for Williams, it would seem, despite having reportedly claimed he’d returned to his Alberta home, never to return, he is still operating in the Sidney area, actively engaged in other jobs. He told the PNR that he had been in Sidney up to August 21 and, although he was now in Port Alberni, he would return to Sidney in a few days.
Caulfield has consulted with police and was told her situation is a civil matter. She is considering legal action, but doubts that collecting judgments from Williams would be a simple matter.
“I’m 75 years old and have never been conned by anyone before. I feel very foolish now, and very sad,” she said, urging others to be cautious in hiring contractors without first performing intensive background checks.