Renovation nightmare

By Diane Walker - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Her insurance company paid out thousands to restore her home to how it was before the fire. But, the amount of money spent does not match the level of work still left to be done. The homeowner called 12 on Your Side for help. She claims the contractor got paid but failed to deliver.

The best tip tonight, never pay 100-percent of the contract until you're 100-percent satisfied with the job. In this case, battling it out in court may be the homeowner's only recourse.

"My brother came into my room. He was on his knees at my bed shaking me, like 'Deb, the bathroom's on fire'," said homeowner Deborah Hewlett.

Deborah Hewlett remains in a state of distress more than a year after a January '09 fire which severely damaged her home.

"It was awful. It was awful. I started crying. That's when I realized that everything was pretty much gone," she said.

This is her dream house today -- no flooring, exposed electrical wiring, unfinished work...

"I had to bathe in a bucket, I literally had to stand up in a bucket and bathe," Deborah said. "All I had was lights and I had to heat water in a pail. I had to heat my water to bathe."

Even today, so much still missing...

"I still have no doors," she said. "It was 91 degrees 2 days ago. I walked in here it was 108. I had AC before but I don't have it now, but I paid $8,000."

Deborah says her mortgage company disbursed 5 insurance checks totaling $100,000 which Johnathan Powell of 'Compass Construction Management and Services, LLC' received. We tried many times to ask him -- what happened? Powell won't return our calls and now, different people live at his former Glen Allen address.

The state contractor's board revoked the license for 'Compass Construction' over a different complaint - and says, there's no recourse for Deborah -- you can't revoke a license that's already revoked. It noted some mistakes.

"It appears the issue was payments being made ahead of the work. You want to pay as you go," said Mary Vaugh with the Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation. "Because once the money is gone, if the contractor isn't above board, his or her incentive to come back really isn't there."

Deborah says she tried to monitor the work.

"He's on the phone, he's walking around my yard, 'man where are these cabinets at, where are these cabinets? I'm sick of calling you about the cabinets.' You know, he hadn't ordered anything. The windows - the same thing," Deborah said.

Documents obtained from the contractor's board, include the company's response to Deborah's complaint. It claims she breached the contract with changes and upgrades that increased the cost of the job. Deborah says Johnathan Powell promised to do more, with less.

"Johnathan and I came up with an agreement on that," she said. "He had 5 kids, his wife was leaving him. He didn't have any money. He said he really needed a job."

Another tip: check the company's record. The Board of Contractors confirms 'Compass Construction Management Services' was not licensed when Johnathan Powell entered a contract with the homeowner. It got licensed 4-days later and almost a year after that, the regulatory board snatched it.     

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