Several frustrated families say they’ve been “duped” by an Ontario builder who has not begun work on their new homes, despite collecting sizable deposits from his buyers.

Cory Savary and Kings Custom Homes are now under investigation by the province’s homebuyer protection agency, Tarion, amid accusations that he’s been dragging his feet after collecting deposits for several homes in Bewdley, south of Peterborough, Ont. Savary has blamed the delays on a rainy summer and difficulties with obtaining building permits.

More than 20 families put down $40,000 deposits each for a house to be built by Kings Custom Homes. The deposits were made through realtors.

The closing dates have either come or gone, been delayed or are just months away.

Buyer Karen Schroor says the delays have left her and others in limbo, because they sold their old homes with the expectation their new ones would be finished on time. “With two weeks’ notice we found out that we had nowhere to go,” she told CTV Toronto. “Nobody had anywhere to go.”

Septic tanks are the only pieces of equipment at the site where the homes are supposed to be built. “Cory Savary took this money when he didn’t need to take the money because there were never any building permits,” homebuyer Andrew Wyatt told CTV Toronto.

Savary has denied accusations of unsavoury behaviour, saying that he fully intends to follow through on his projects. “We don’t make deals that we can’t complete. We don’t do that,” he told CTV Toronto.

Savary blamed the construction delays on building permit issues. “Same as every builder gets. And weather delays. It’s been raining all year.”

Kings Custom Homes has sold future homes in the Peterborough-area communities of Bewdley, Norwood, Pigeon Lake and Cobourg. However, those townships say no building permits have been requested, issued or denied from the company.

“I do have permits,” Savary said. However, he refused to specify which houses he has obtained permits for.

Savary took CTV Toronto’s Heather Wright on a tour of one of his build sites near Peterborough. No workers were present at the time. “Well they were here until, whatever, one o’clock or whatever,” he said.

Construction at the site began last fall, but the buyer has since backed out and Savary now owns the property.

In most cases, Ontario builders have up to one year after the closing date to complete construction on a home. Builders must be registered with Tarion, and buyers can apply to get their deposits back through the agency if the builder doesn’t finish a house within that deadline.

Savary says he’s being unfairly targeted by Tarion, which issued a notice of proposal to revoke Kings Custom Homes’ registration in July. The notice of proposal cited failure to pay money owed to Tarion in a timely manner, and failure to comply with the terms and conditions of registration. Savary has appealed the notice, but no hearing date has been set.

“We are continuing to investigate the activities of Mr. Savary and Kings Custom Homes and are using all of the tools at our disposal under the act to address this matter,” Laurie Stephens, a spokesperson for Tarion, said in a statement.

Tarion is urging anyone who has purchased a property from Kings Custom Homes to contact them.

But regardless of how the dispute plays out, Savary’s angry customers say others should avoid buying from him.

“I hope that nobody else gets duped like we did,” one man said.

With files from CTV Toronto