The regulator steps in after the Orléans home builder abandoned customers

The former headquarters of Highbridge Construction in this Orléans shopping center is now empty.  (Kimberley Molina/CBC - photo credit)

The former headquarters of Highbridge Construction in this Orléans shopping center is now empty. (Kimberley Molina/CBC – photo credit)

Ontario’s housing regulator has stepped in after a company in Orléans suddenly went out of business earlier this month, leaving customers stranded.

The Home Construction Regulatory Authority (HCRA) has frozen Highbridge Construction’s assets and suspended the company’s license.

“HCRA has issued Licensee’s immediate suspension order amid HCRA’s ongoing investigation to safeguard and protect the public interest,” the agency wrote. The suspension went into effect on February 16.

HCRA urges customers of the company to contact the agency immediately.

On Thursday, the Ottawa Police Service confirmed to CBC News that its fraud unit is leading an investigation into the company.

CBC News has attempted to reach Highbridge but has received no response to numerous phone calls and emails.

Kimberley Molina/CBC

Kimberley Molina/CBC

In an automated email response, Highbridge — which the HCRA says has been licensed as ViloHam Trades Inc. since January 2021 — claims it can no longer meet its day-to-day cash needs and is insolvent.

“We have been forced into this position due to the COVID pandemic and gross theft in the latter half of 2021 and early 2022,” the response said. “The theft resulted in significant [losses] To the company.”

The message did not include details of the theft claim.

The company also said it would not “voluntarily file for bankruptcy” as it was “unable to pay the fees.”

No word on deposits

In filings posted online, HCRA alleges that Highbridge failed to comply with an inspection that included “requests for records and responses to inquiries about the status and location of deposit funds.”

This non-compliance resulted in “an immediate compliance order being issued along with the license suspension and a freeze order requiring them to hold all assets and funds,” the HCRA wrote.

According to the agency, the company had at least five new homes under construction when it announced it was ceasing operations. It is not known how many additional contracts the company failed to fulfill or what happened to the money paid.

“To date, the licensee has not submitted any documentation demonstrating what happened to the buyers’ deposits,” the HCRA wrote in its notice of Highbridge’s license revocation.

“[Highbridge] claims that the money is gone, however, will not support the HCRA for these claims.”

The landlord owed $100,000

Around the same time that Highbridge announced its bankruptcy, the landlord of the Orléans mall where the company had its offices posted a notice on the door saying he owed $100,000 in rent.

According to the notice, Highbridge’s goods have been confiscated and the building’s locks replaced.



Jake McDavid, who runs True Handyman Inc., said he was hired by Highbridge to do some work in 2022 but took the company to small claims court over unpaid bills.

“How is it possible to be a big construction company with a relatively nice storefront, with nice furniture and multiple employees and boardrooms and really nice people to meet… and project managers can’t pay a $2,000 bill?” asked McDavid.

Under the HCRA’s order to freeze Highbridge’s assets, possible consequences could include provincial criminal charges, administrative penalties or referral to its own Disciplinary Committee. Any money recovered in this way could be returned to customers.

In an email sent to clients earlier this month, Highbridge wrote: “Knowing that we have dramatically impacted people’s lives is something that is deeply devastating and something we will live with for the rest of our lives .”


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