Two years ago, Debbie McHugh was excited to be purchasing her first home – a tiny house.
The 68-year-old woman signed a contract with Shawn Cameron and his business Your Tiny Homes Inc. (YTH), which operates out of Vavenby, in November 2019. The next month, she paid $48,284.25 from her retirement fund, expecting her home to be completed by January 2020.
But as the completion date drew closer, McHugh became concerned about the lack of communication from the builder. Two years later, she is still without her dream home and said she is now facing homelessness.
“I’m devastated,” said McHugh, who is currently living in a rental property in Squamish. “I’ve never been so stressed out. My stomach hurts all the time. I have to move and I have no home.”
McHugh filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of B.C. on Nov. 12, seeking damages from Cameron and YTH, for the amount she paid for the tiny home, as well as appliances and housewares, among other costs. As of press time, Cameron and YTH had not filed a counterclaim.
Her claim comes on the heels of five others, who allege Cameron and Your Tiny Homes Inc. failed to deliver a tiny home by the date agreed to in their contracts. In each case, the plaintiffs have demanded a full refund of the monies paid to YTH.
Most are still waiting.
The tiny home business was started in March 2018. It was around that time when Ashley Davis entered an agreement with Cameron and YTH for two tiny homes that she planned to use as rental properties. The completion date was set for May 15, 2018. She paid YTH $33,375 in several instalments.
Based on this contractual agreement, Davis, 37, entered into two rental contracts with third parties, starting July 2018. But when the completion date arrived, Cameron failed to deliver the tiny homes.
Davis, who spent her life savings on the homes, filed a lawsuit against Cameron in October 2019, saying she just wants her money back. According to court documents, Cameron agreed in a written statement to remit the funds in three instalments. But to date, he has only paid the first $10,000.
Cameron told the Times the matter with Davis “has been dealt with.” When questioned further, he said per the service agreement, the parties would need to go to arbitration, “should she not agree.”
But Davis can’t afford to hire another lawyer. After the tiny homes fell through, Davis, who is a single mother, had to borrow money from her parents to pay her mortgage. Eventually, she had to sell her house.
“I’m fine now and I’ve kind of had to hustle to pull my s*** back together to be able to live, but that was a very, very horrible time of my life where he majorly kicked me when I was down,” she said.
In August 2020, Iesza Jessica Robson-Smith filed a request seeking a court order to enforce a decision made by arbitration earlier that year. Although Cameron and Your Tiny Homes Inc. was found in breach of contract and ordered by the arbitrator to pay $51,804.05 in refunds and fees to Robson-Smith in May 2020, that settlement has not been completed.
McHugh, meanwhile, has tried everything she could to get her money back. A couple of months ago she posted to popular online business directory Yelp, warning other tiny home buyers to beware of Cameron and YTH.
In the review, McHugh notes the numerous completion dates, as well as Cameron’s reasons for delaying delivery.
“I am a senior citizen and a First Nations person about to become homeless,” she wrote.
Kara Vanderwoude responded to McHugh’s Yelp post, saying she had a similar experience with Cameron and YTH in 2019, paying Cameron and YTH $53,171 for a tiny home and receiving nothing in return.
Vanderwoude filed for arbitration in June this year and was awarded damages of over $93,000 plus interest, though she has yet to be paid. Vanderwoude returned to the courts in November in an attempt to have the award enforced.
“I don’t know how he keeps getting away with it,” Vanderwoude told the Times. “It’s ludicrous.”
Cameron contends Vanderwoude failed to comply with the service agreement. He is in the process of appealing the decision, claiming “two arbitrators walked away” for unknown reasons, and alleges the third was biased as he “didn’t recognize the contract in itself and failed to be neutral and the decision was unjust.”
He claims he and YTH didn’t initially know about the decision because the court documents ended up in their junk folder, and only became aware of it when they received a hard copy in the mail. By that time, he said, Vanderwoude had made an application to the court and he was unable to attend the court date to appeal.
McHugh, meanwhile, has tried everything to get her money back.
Over the past 22 months, she has tried everything to get answers from Cameron, who changed the delivery date at least four times. Concerned about her asset, McHugh reached out to Access Pro Bono. The lawyers’ calls to Cameron and YTH also went unanswered.
In June 2021, more than seven months after the most recent delivery date change, McHugh said she drove seven hours from Squamish to Vavenby with her niece to confront Cameron and get an update about her tiny home.
“When I got there, I asked where my appliances are,” she said. “He tells me, ‘I couldn’t get a hold of you, I tried calling you, I tried emailing.’ (He) sold my house without my knowledge.”
He then offered her a larger home on the property and sent a new contract to be signed with a delivery date of August 2021. McHugh said she didn’t sign the paperwork and asked for her money back.
In response to a request for comment, Cameron failed to provide reasons why McHugh’s tiny home wasn’t completed. He also didn’t confirm whether he plans to deliver her home at all.
He claims McHugh failed to pay $10,000 owed to YTH, so the tiny home was not delivered.
According to the agreement, $5,475.50 is due “within 48 hours of substantial completion of the work at the shop prior to delivery” and the remaining $2,737.75 is due “within 48 hours of completing delivery and setup” in Squamish.
Cameron claims he and YTH were “blindsided” when McHugh showed up with her niece, saying he had attempted to reach her by phone and email for months, and after 60 days, he sold the home “and moved forward.”
The washer, dryer and fridge that McHugh purchased were not installed in the home they sold, said Cameron, and they have asked her to pick them up from the shop.
On the Better Business Bureau website, an alert has been posted about Your Tiny Homes Inc. noting that it had received an inquiry about the tiny home business.
“The consumer alleged that they paid a large deposit for a tiny house project but they never received the service,” the notice reads. “Consumers alleged they were not able to get a refund.”
The notice says the BBB also reached out to YTH with letters on July 28 and Aug. 20 this year. The letters requested details about their business location, contact information and refund policy. The BBB states that as of Sept. 7, 2021, they had not received a response from YTH.
The Times reached out to the BBB for more information about the company and the complaints against it, but didn’t receive a response.
Still no tiny home
McHugh’s lawyer confirmed a report had been filed with the RCMP in mid-October, but were told by the constable they didn’t think the allegations would be pursued.
Deanna Neuman, McHugh’s niece, started a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help her aunt find short-term accommodation and build a new home.
“Debbie is having difficulty finding affordable accommodations and fears she will be homeless in the near future,” the GoFundMe reads.
McHugh said she just wants her money back so she can hire another contractor to build and deliver her home.
“All I want is my money back so I can buy a home.”