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Disabled Fort Langley woman out $200K after contractor skips out

Erin Kreiter’s family hopes to finish renos to create an accessible home
Erin Kreiter and her father Tim are hoping to complete at least a portion of renovations to make their new family home accessible for Erin. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

A Fort Langley woman was hoping to create her “forever home” but her family is out more than $200,000 after being left in the lurch by their contractor.

A decade ago, Erin Kreiter was a Ph.D. student at the University of Alberta, but found herself repeatedly going to hospital due to muscle weakness and trouble breathing.

She was eventually diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. While she was back home in B.C., she collapsed and spent months on life support. She now requires a ventilator and a motorized wheelchair, along with 24/7 medical support from family or other caregivers.

Her parents, Tim and Janet, had their home in Walnut Grove modified to support Erin’s wheelchair and medical equipment. But over the years, the limitations of that home became apparent.

In 2021, the family moved to a new home in Fort Langley, a former bed and breakfast. They had a plan to expand the existing footprint of the building out into the backyard. It would give Erin more space, and create enough living area for both her sister Elizabeth and her parents, and in the future, for a full time caregiver.

It would have been somewhere for Erin to live for the rest of her life, with the freedom to move around and storage space for her medical equipment.

“It was supposed to simplify life, and that was exciting, amazing, thrilling, after being so tightly squished in the old house,” Erin said.

The plan was to renovate bathrooms, to open up the hallways to be wide enough to accommodate Erin’s bed, so she could move from room to room more easily.

“That was the point of the renovation, to give her her own private space,” said Erin’s father Tim.

Tim and Janet had spearheaded the renovation of the Kreiters’ first home, but this time they would need outside help. In 2018, Tim was one of the Langley residents who was run down by James Joseph Gordon, who went on a hit-and-run spree that injured multiple pedestrians in Langley and Abbotsford.

The family worked with an architect, then found a local contractor. Tim, a former fraud investigator with the Langley RCMP, checked him out with the Better Business Bureau, and everything seemed fine.

But as work began, there were issues. First with the quality of some of the work, and then later, some of the concrete subcontractors said they hadn’t been paid.

By the end of July, the last subcontractors downed their tools and left, and the Kreiters, who had dipped into savings, retirement funds, and lines of credit, were out of money.

Their backyard now has a series of unfinished foundations and piles of dirt.

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The family spent $326,000 in total on the renovation efforts. The estimate between $100,000 and $150,000 worth of work was actually done before the contractor pulled up stakes.

The contractor has closed up shop, the Kreiters said.

Now, Erin and her family have no way to finish the project on their own.

The family has discussed a number of options, Erin said, including finishing just part of the expansion.

Ultimately, they are hoping to finish their original plan, although it may take much longer than they had anticipated.

“Things that are good are worth waiting for,” said Erin.

The family has launched a Gofundme campaign, “Help Erin rebuild a life worth living,” hoping to raise $100,000 towards the cost of the first phase work. They have a new contractor who came via a trusted family friend. The funding will help build the most pressing part of the project, an accessible washroom and bedroom for Erin.

“It’s frustrating having to ask for help,” Erin said.

She and her family already received a tremendous amount of help years ago, when they were renovating the family home in Walnut Grove. People donated time, supplies, and labour, and Erin said she felt guilty afterwards.

“We felt that our ‘help quota’ had been exhausted.”

But they have no other option right now. They are also accepting help from tradespeople or those who can contribute materials to the project.

“If people are willing to help us, we will accept it gratefully and thankfully,” she said.

Completing the full project may cost closer to $500,000, they now estimate.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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