A knock on the door can be costly

Everyday across Ontario, in big cities and small towns, contractors are working hard to ensure their customers get quality service and craftsmanship for a fair price. Most contractors, that is.

According to advocates for elderly Ontarians, small handfuls of unscrupulous workers are preying upon seniors, tricking or intimidating them into going forward with wildly expensive and often unnecessary renovations.

Lori Flaxy is the director of Ontario Senior Services, an organization designed to help senior citizens remain independent in their homes.  She says that bullying of some of Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens is, unfortunately, widespread.

“We’re getting a lot of reports of roofers or handymen showing up uninvited at seniors’ homes, and starting a job and not finishing…or taking money up front for a job and then just not showing up.”

The Ontario College of Trades (the College), the new industry-driven provincial regulatory body that protects the public interest by regulating and promoting the skilled trades, is aware of the dangers faced by scammers and is doing its part to protect the public.

The College’s website features a free public register that allows anyone with an Internet connection to confirm that someone in a compulsory trade – such a plumber or an electrician – has the required qualifications to do the work.

“One of the College’s core mandates is to protect the public interest, and the public register does just that. If you’re going to hire someone to re-wire your home or do some plumbing work, all you have to do is check the registry to make sure that person is certified for the job. It’s that easy,” said David Tsubouchi, Registrar and CEO of the College.

To confirm a certification, all one needs to do is type in the individual’s membership number, or their first and last name. If the person is a member of the College and a certified journeyperson or apprentice, the name will pop up, as well as details on their qualifications.

Though she considers it to be a “big problem” already, Flaxy of Ontario Senior Services expects that even more seniors will in coming years be ripped off.

“It’s going to happen more. Some parts of Ontario are so economically depressed…more people will be willing to prey upon seniors.”

Flaxy says that when her organization works with a tradesperson on behalf of a client, it routinely checks to see if that person is certified with the Ontario College of Trades.

That’s because all Ontarians deserve peace of mind in the safety of their homes.

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