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A Gatineau couple loses hundreds of thousands of dollars because the company they deal with to build their dream home lures clients with false promises. The company would act completely illegally, discovered La Facture.

Ruined by an entrepreneur with questionable practices

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 fnSNjC">Martin Maisonneuve with the journalist from La Facture on the land planned for his new residence.

  • Annie Hudon-Friceau (View profile)Annie Hudon-Friceau

Martin Maisonneuve and Liliane Assaf dream of building a house on a wooded plot of land where a pretty stream flows, in Cantley, in the Outaouais.

It was like love at first sight. I saw myself living here until I was very old.

A quote from Martin Maisonneuve

As they have no expertise in this area, they did business in January 2022 with Maisons Paragon, a family business run by François and Nicole Murray.

François Murray presents himself as a project manager. He takes care of finding bidders and managing the project from A to Z. But he specifies that he is not a general contractor.

Following the formula offered by Maisons Paragon, the client builds his house as an owner-builder.

Maisons Paragon promised them 25% savings .

[François Murray told us]: you will save a lot of money because we eliminate all the intermediaries […] ] I make no profit on this, I just make a profit on the management of your project, reports Martin Maisonneuve.

This is also what the company claims on its website (New window). Unlike a general contractor, the project manager makes no profit on the materials as well as on the work of subcontractors, we can read. (New window)

When he presented this to us, that the quality will be there, that the price will be respected, at "your" asked, we looked at each other, we said: perfect, let's go, let's go for it!

A quote from Liliane Assaf

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Liliane Assaf, client of Maisons Paragon.

Martin and Liliane's budget is $700,000. They claim to have agreed on this with Maisons Paragon.

They sign a first contract in January 2022 with Maisons Paragon, the management contract, at up to $80,000, and make a 50% non-refundable deposit. The couple therefore paid $40,000, then signed a second contract, this one for the architect's plans: $10,000.

Maisons Paragon, which also offers kit houses, is offering one for $375,000, with a new promise of savings.

[ He told us: Our houses are so well made, they are so good that you will save 20% to 30% on heating and electricity costs, Martin Maisonneuve still remembers

The couple then signs a third contract and must again make a non-refundable deposit of 50%.

But it is impossible to know, at this stage, how much the project will cost in the end, because the kit house is not an all-inclusive house. Other expenses will be added.

In total, the couple pays Maisons Paragon more than $238,000, without a shadow of a budget, without a single shovelful of earth. However, they are convinced that Maisons Paragon will respect their budget, as promised.

We felt so confident.

A quote from Martin Maisonneuve

< source srcset="https://images.radio-canada.ca/q_auto,w_700/v1/ici-info/16x9/francois-murray-maisons-paragon.png" media="(min-width: 0)"> Open in full screen mode

François Murray of Maisons Paragon.

Two months after signing the contract for the kit house, the Maisonneuve-Assaf couple discovered the overall budget with astonishment. It exceeds $1 million, which is $300,000 more than the couple had budgeted.

We were strong far from the initial agreement. Where did the $300,000 come from? Martin Maisonneuve wonders.

But the director of Maisons Paragon is categorical, the budgetary target was clearly established from the start.

These allegations are false, erroneous and dishonest […] From the beginning, people were informed that their budget, their construction costs, would be approximately one million.

A quote from Fran&#231 ;ois Murray, Paragon Homes

According to Claudia Bérubé, lawyer and lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke, the very structure of these three interrelated contracts poses a problem, since the client signs these contracts and pays large sums without having a precise idea of ​​the final budget.< /p>

To plan these three contracts in this way puts consumers in a situation where they can have unpleasant surprises […] He has to sign a third contract, and then, surprise, we discover the final amount, notes Claudia Berube. And there, there is no reason to negotiate anything.

According to the terms of the Under the agreement with Maisons Paragon, the second payment for the kit house, $187,500, is scheduled three months after signing the third contract.

While a soil evaluation and the wait for permits delay the start of the work, Maisons Paragon demands the sums due.

Only, the house of Martin Maisonneuve and Liliane Assaf are not yet sold. They don't have the necessary funds.

Paragon texts us, then emails: "Have you heard from the second payment?" […] He told me "you have to pay." […] Do I have to pay you? You didn't start anything, we didn't even make a hole in the ground!

We had the knife to our throat, illustrious Liliane Assaf .

François Murray retorts that he was within his rights. The pressure I put on was to get paid for my second payment which was due on the home kit. The terms of the contract are very clear, clear and precise, argues François Murray […] It had been six months since the second payment was due, then it was not paid.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Maisons Paragon offices.

Liliane and Martin want to go back. Our dream has become a nightmare […] we stop everything, remembers Liliane Assaf saying.

But the agreement provides for a 75% penalty in the event of cancellation. Not to mention that deposits are non-refundable, according to the terms of the agreement.

Thus, a client who wants to back out would leave more on the table 87% of the amounts provided for in the contracts. In the eyes of Maisons Paragon, however, these sums are justified.

The work has been done, the design and plans have been made and delivered. Project management was 50% done. All that remained was the management of the site to be done.

A quote from François Murray, Maisons Paragon

According to Me Claudia Bérubé, this 75% penalty clause is not valid in Quebec. It is prohibited to include such a clause in a consumer contract.

François Murray of Maisons Paragon tells us that he was unaware of it. He claims that his contracts were all verified by his lawyer.

In a similar case, last December, the Court of Quebec canceled the contracts which links Maisons Paragon to two other clients in the Outaouais region.

In the case of Robertson v. Murray, the judge ordered Nicole and François Murray to return all fees collected, namely $41,000, and to pay $5,000 in damages.

The customers' consent was vitiated by the fraudulent maneuvers of Paragon […] The Customers were cheated by the Paragon concept and the false and misleading representations of its representatives, we can read in the judgment.

We also learn in this judgment that Maisons Paragon makes profits on the architect's plans and on the kit house. This is an important element which can vitiate the consent of clients, according to Me Claudia Bérubé.

If, indeed, Paragon takes […] a certain profit margin on the work that is carried out by suppliers or subcontractors or even on the materials that are sold, while the first contract says clearly, black and white white, "we don't take any money from your work" […] it can be considered as a false representation which can constitute fraud. […] Which can lead to the cancellation of a contract, argues Claudia Bérubé, lawyer and lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke.

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Martin Maisonneuve on the land which was to house his new Maisons Paragon residence.

For Martin Maisonneuve, this changes everything. If I had had the whole total of all this information before, if I had had the judgment in hand, if I had been made aware of the judgment, I would never have does business with Franck Murray. Never.

François and Nicole Murray appealed the judgment handed down against them last December. They are still awaiting a court date.

Photos of different houses can be found on the Maisons Paragon website. On some of them, we can read: Paragon Custom Design Chelsea Quebec 2012, or Paragon Homes Custom Design Lanark Ontario 2017.

Or, in a few clicks, we discover that these photos were not taken in Lanark, Ontario, nor in Chelsea, Quebec, but rather in Terrebonne, near Montreal.

These photos actually come from an image bank. The houses seen there were not built by Maisons Paragon.

These are all the photos I purchased from iStock […] To give an example that x27;we can build on both sides of the river, argues François Murray of Maisons Paragon.

Questioned about the makes Maisons Paragon lie about where these photos were taken and on what date, he responds as follows: That's what you say.

François Murray does not hold any construction license and, in his eyes, that poses no problem.

I am not a general contractor, I am a project manager. […] It is the client who becomes the general contractor as a self-builder, affirms François Murray.

While it is true that an owner-builder or project manager does not need a license, the law states that a person who performs or causes construction work to be performed for another is considered a contractor and must hold a license.

For the Régie du logement, there is a very clear distinction between a project manager and a general contractor.< /p>

The project management aspect exists, explains Sylvain Lamothe. Someone can actually support an owner as a project manager. […] If you are an advisor to an owner […] for the guidance of certain decisions, perfect. But from the moment you are the conductor on the job site, you are a construction contractor. You need a license.

Martin Maisonneuve and Liliane Assaf are categorical, the conductor is François Murray. The couple says their role is limited to approving bids and signing checks, that essential elements of their project are beyond their control.

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The Martin Maisonneuve couple Liliane Assaf with the journalist from La Facture.

Even François Murray's speech in an interview suggests that he is much more than a simple project manager. We coordinate all the subcontractors, the suppliers, we do the inspections, we take care of the municipal inspections, the bank, the engineers, all that. Then we manage the project from A to Z.

According to Marie-Hélène Dufour, lawyer and law professor at the University of Sherbrooke, Maisons Paragons is trying to circumvent the law.

It's one thing to say: I'm not a general contractor, and it's another to act like a general contractor, explains Marie-Hélène Dufour, lawyer and professor of law at the University from Sherbrooke. I have the impression that he is trying to do indirectly what the law would not allow him to do directly, that is to say that he claims to be a project manager to avoid being qualified as a project manager. x27;entrepreneur. But ultimately, he performs the functions of an entrepreneur according to the definition provided in the law and regulations.

Alert by The invoice, the Régie du logement du Québec has opened a file.

In fact, the situation as it is reported is a situation of an entrepreneur who plays the role of a general contractor, affirms Sylvain Lamothe […] There is verifications that are in progress. A ticket for working without a license can result in an individual being fined between $12,000 and $96,000. For a company […] We are talking about $40,000 to $192,000.

Maisons Paragon filed a lawsuit against Martin Maisonneuve and Liliane Assaf . The company is seeking a total of $175,000 from the couple for terminating their contracts.

They sold their land in the countryside and intend to to sue Maisons Paragon with the money from the sale. They hope one day to recover the approximately $250,000 lost in this misadventure.

  • Annie Hudon-Friceau (View profile)Annie Hudon-FriceauFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116