Why Contractors Should be Licensed

Originally Posted By: jbushart
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.

Portsmouth couple trying to recoup $18K loss

By Elizabeth Dinan

Thomas and Unal Kaya Davis contracted to have the roof of their Lincoln Avenue Victorian home replaced in fall 2002.
Three years and $18,000 later, they?re still waiting for the contractor to make good on the deal. Meanwhile, their roof now leaks, a costly development they allege occurred at the hands of roofer James Coughlin, doing business as "The Advantage."

A warrant and a $2,000 bond is out for Coughlin?s arrest, implemented on Sept. 22 when he failed to appear in Portsmouth District Court to answer the couple?s long-standing complaints about the workmanship and owed money. It was one of numerous occasions when Coughlin was unresponsive by telephone, court order and registered mail.

Adding more to the couple?s expense, the Davises hired Portsmouth attorney Susan Denenberg to litigate the roof deal gone bad. The last time Denenberg appeared in court on their behalf, Coughlin was a no-show.

Denenberg said she and her clients are unwilling to comment on the case, fearing it could jeopardize any chance of recovering their substantial loss.

Coughlin could not be reached for comment.

But Denenberg did remind that in New Hampshire roofers are not required to be licensed like other tradespeople including plumbers, hair stylists and manicurists. And without a licensing mandate, shoddy roofmanship is difficult to undo.

The Davises? case file in Portsmouth District Court offers proof. Their legal pursuit began Dec. 16, 2003, when Coughlin was mailed a lega* interrogation" by the Davises? attorney, followed by a Jan. 5, 2004, reminder that his answers were due with the court in 30 days.

On Jan. 22, attorney Denenberg left a phone message for Coughlin telling him his answers were overdue and a default warrant would be issued if he didn?t comply by Jan. 26, 2004.

When Jan. 26 arrived, a call to Coughlin?s phone number was met with a recorded message saying it had been temporarily disconnected.

The Davises then petitioned the local district court on Feb. 9, 2004, asking that their missing roofer be found in default. The request was granted by Judge Sharon DeVries.

And on April 24, 2004, the Davises filed an affidavit with the local court in response to Coughlin?s assertion that he was in the military and unavailable. Their affidavit said he was continuing to do business as The Advantage and continuing to do roofing, based on their claim that they saw his advertisements in the Herald.

"He is not in the military," they wrote.

The couple then filed an affidavit of damages to their three-story, circa 1875 Victorian, which occurred after they wrote 10 checks to Coughlin totaling $14,261.66. In short, they say the roof began leaking in fall 2002, after the work stopped but the job was not complete.

They also documented improper flashing around "stink pipes" where they could see daylight, improperly set shingles, bubbles in the roofing, mismatched shingles, holes in their home, and gaps at drip edges.

But things were worse than that, they discovered, after hiring a home inspector to evaluate Coughlin?s handiwork. That Belmont Contracting inspector found Coughlin used no underlayment under the roof shingles, according to common practice and their contract.

The inspector advised the couple to strip the entire roof and do the job over again at an estimated cost of $24,700. Other contractors advised them similarly.

The Davises wrote to the court again, saying they couldn?t afford the roof overhaul, having already paid Coughlin $14,000. And they contracted with a Dover company to repair a couple of leaks, fix some of the shingles and perform other assorted patch-ups totaling $850.

A second batch of repairs, costing another $1,400, replaced improper flashing and applied bithethane against walls.

But in fall 2002, the Davises told the court, a leak allowed "gushing" water into their home. On Aug. 2, 2003, they again reported gushing water inside their home, and a meeting was scheduled with Coughlin for Aug. 25, 2003, to go over the problems and to discuss remedies.

Coughlin didn?t show, the Davises say, but the following month one of his employees arrived at their home, looked around, then said he needed to retrieve some staging and safety equipment. He never returned, the Davises reported.

So on Sept. 8, 2003, they wrote another letter of complaint to their roofer, which also went unanswered. On the following April Fool?s Day, a wind-driven storm caused water to "gush" through their roof, into the third floor, through to the second floor, and down to the ground floor, they reported. Interior walls and ceilings were damaged, they wrote to the court.

As of April 24, 2004, the couple calculated their losses at $18,069.84, court records say. Two days after that calculation, a final default judgment was issued by the local district court and a hearing was scheduled for Aug. 4.

Court records show Coughlin never retrieved the certified letter mailed by the court ordering him to appear. So on Aug. 17, a sheriff served him in-hand with a letter ordering him to appear for yet another hearing, this one scheduled for Sept. 22.

That was the date attorney Denenberg appeared, but Coughlin did not. An active warrant remains for the roofer?s arrest.

Home Inspection Services of Missouri

"We're NACHI. Get over it."


Originally Posted By: psabados
This post was automatically imported from our archived forum.


Repair work slipshod on local home

Tax money spent on unsafe maintenance


The Kansas City Star

Leaky roofs and sagging ceilings. Buckling and poorly repaired foundations. Dangerous furnaces and flues.

An investigation by The Kansas City Star found that a taxpayer-supported home maintenance program overseen by the city?s former housing agency approved all of that shoddy work.

Contractors working with the Housing and Economic Development Financial Corp., also known as HEDFC, even charged one elderly couple $700 for smoke detectors.

But that?s only the beginning of the problems uncovered by two independent, certified home inspectors hired by The Kansas City Star to check the quality of the remodeling and maintenance jobs.

The inspectors checked four homes and found a trail of slipshod work, including problems that could be life-threatening:

Improper venting of heating or hot water systems that could cause fires or asphyxiation.

Faulty electrical wiring.

Improper gas line connections.

Asbestos left in ductwork.

The newspaper?s inspectors also questioned whether some contractors actually did all of the repair work that homeowners paid for with low-interest loans and grants from HEDFC. Remodeling projects cost as much as $40,000 and took up to two years to complete.

?They didn?t do the work that should have been done to ensure a safe and habitable house, such as proper wiring and flues. And the work that did get done was substandard,? said Paul Romer of AAA Certified Home Inspections.

What?s more, the housing agency?s records show that some HEDFC inspectors signed off on the faulty repairs. They also failed to check whether licensed craftsmen installed appliances properly or whether city inspectors had approved the work.

In some cases, they hadn?t.

It?s unclear how many homeowners ended up with bad repairs. A court-appointed receiver, who took over the housing agency earlier this year, is reviewing complaints from 10 or more homeowners who said they had problems.

The receiver is continuing to investigate, but many other homes could be involved.

In addition to hiring inspectors to examine four homes, reporters informally called at least two dozen people who got HEDFC home repair loans.

Only one was satisfied with the agency and its contractor?s work.

The former head of the HEDFC, Ken Bacchus, declined to comment on the newspaper?s findings. Everett Tomlin, who oversaw the home repair program when he worked for the agency, also declined to comment.

Robert Patterson, an independent inspector once under contract with the housing agency, acknowledged that some rehab work was improperly done and said he often complained about it in memos and staff meetings. Patterson said he had no idea why other inspectors approved faulty work.

?That?s beyond me,? he said.

Patterson, who?s now working for the court-appointed receiver, agreed with The Star?s inspectors that it didn?t appear that $30,000 to $40,000 worth of work probably was done on some of the homes The Star inspected.

The federal government, which funneled millions of dollars into the home repair program, is interested in what happened to all the money sunk into the repair program.

One of the home repair contractors involved, Morris Goode, who does business as Goode?s Contractor, acknowledged that he had been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. The subpoena is part of an ongoing investigation of the housing agency by the FBI, the Office of Inspector General and the U.S. attorney?s office.

Goode has said he did as many as 50 home repair jobs a year under the program, which made him one of the agency?s top paid remodeling contractors. Although Goode acknowledged he had made mistakes, overall he defended his work.

Goode said he had nothing to hide, adding: ?When they go through my records, they will find out I never took a dime for nothing and even reduced prices to make things work for the homeowner.?

Goode blamed homeowners for demanding he do work that wasn?t part of the original plan, and he said HEDFC did a poor job of administering the program.

?All I had was problems with HEDFC when I worked for them,? he said, adding that the agency owes him at least $10,000.

Goode told The Star that he planned to tell the grand jury that a housing agency official once offered him contracts in return for kickbacks, which he said he refused.

Even after the court-appointed receiver took over the housing agency, another HEDFC contractor asked how much he should add to his bid for the agency, a spokesman for the receiver told the newspaper. The receiver?s office rejected that offer.

While the federal investigation continues, taxpayers are getting stuck with another round of bills ? this time to fix the shoddy work.

Several homeowners have filed claims with the city, said Troy Schulte, the city?s budget director.

?We?ve inherited the problem in homes where the work wasn?t done to meet standards,? Schulte said. ?Sometimes we can?t even find that the work was done (such as installation of a water heater).?

What went so wrong?

Federal housing officials said most cities administer their own home repair programs for low- and moderate-income families and then check to make sure the work was done right.

Kansas City, however, turned its home repair program over to the Housing and Economic Development Financial Corp. Apparently no one was watching to make sure the work was done right, the newspaper found.

?There is a need for reform,? said City Manager Wayne Cauthen, who has dismantled the city?s old housing program and has promised a more efficient one. ?This type of situation cannot continue.?

Cauthen said the city gave too much control to HEDFC and failed to put in place the proper checks and balances. For example, the same agency shouldn?t make the loan, approve the contractor, then inspect the work, Cauthen said.

Meanwhile, the court-appointed receiver is spending tens of thousands of tax dollars to fix homes that the HEDFC repair program left unfinished or unsafe.

The receiver also is concerned that thousands of dollars in grants intended for removing harmful lead-based paint from homes may have been misused. Huge amounts of money were spent on lead abatement, but inspectors have found lead paint in homes.

Houses of horror

The Star?s inspectors visited homes and reporters interviewed homeowners who told horror stories of remodeling projects gone wrong.

Because of sloppy work and a dispute with a contractor, a woman and her son said they lived without a working bathroom for two months and had to use a bucket. Another woman said she suffered through cold winters and hot summers for two years without a working furnace or air conditioner.

?I was hurt that my people did this to us,? said Myrtle Carson, 84, whose home had numerous problems uncovered by the newspaper?s inspectors.

Among the things Carson and her husband were charged for was a $450 termite treatment. Myrtle Carson said she never asked for a termite inspection and her house never was treated. The Star?s inspector said he saw no evidence of termites or evidence the house had ever been treated.

One of the newspaper?s inspectors confirmed that three homeowners were charged hundreds of dollars more than they should have been for inexpensive, less-efficient off-brand furnaces and air conditioners.

Overcharges apparently were not uncommon. Documents showed that the Carsons were billed $700 for hard-wired smoke detectors that inspectors said should have cost much less.

One HEDFC contractor offered to install two new garage door openers on another home for $1,125. Sears later installed both for half that amount.

Homeowner Gracie Neal said her HEDFC contractor tried to install what appeared to be a used toilet as part of her $38,000 rehab job. ?I told him not to bring another toilet in this house that wasn?t in a box,? Neal said.

Another homeowner, Gracie Anderson, took out a loan for more than $31,000 to fix her modest 1,100-square-foot house, but an HEDFC inspector said that for the same amount, she probably could have built a new one.

?I had three different contractors work on my house for over three years, and they?re still not done,? Anderson complained. ?To this day, I?m not sure how much I owe and what it is all for. They kept telling me I needed stuff that I now doubt that I needed.?

More immediate issues at the Anderson house, such as a leaky roof, never got fixed.

Part of the problem, the newspaper?s inspectors said, was that some of the HEDFC?s contractors didn?t do good work.

The inspectors said the repairs done at four homes by Goode?s Contracting ? which records show had collected nearly $300,000 from HEDFC over the past 10 years ? posed serious safety concerns.

In two of those jobs, homeowners complained to the city and won full or partial arbitration awards from Goode. According to a deposition Goode gave in one dispute, he said he had no certification in carpentry, plumbing or electrical work.

City records show he had used unlicensed heating and cooling subcontractors.

Records indicate that Tomlin, who oversaw the repair program for the HEDFC, knew as early as October 2001 that homeowners were complaining about Goode?s work.

It wasn?t until late last year, when the housing agency first came under fire for its expensive rehabilitation of two homes on Tracy Avenue, that Tomlin barred Goode from the program.

Tip of iceberg?

Poor repair work wasn?t the only problem with HEDFC?s home maintenance program, the newspaper?s investigation found.

Homeowners who got loans told The Star that they:

Were charged as much as $1,400 in closing costs and other fees, although federal officials said remodeling loans usually don?t involve closing costs. Federal rules allow nominal fees, but some cities such as Wichita don?t charge any.

Were steered toward certain contractors, including one who recently served prison time for felony tax evasion.

Were pressured to accept shoddy work.

Doretta Stanley, who owns a home in the 5100 block of Lister Avenue, said in an interview that?s what happened when she hired Goode to install a new water heater, furnace and air conditioner and do other repairs.

Her new appliances didn?t work, and she refused to sign papers allowing Goode to be paid. She said HEDFC inspectors pestered her and even visited her workplace, but she wouldn?t sign.

Finally, Stanley said, she was summoned to HEDFC headquarters and met with Tomlin, Goode and others. In a letter to the court-appointed receiver, she described her experience.

?I was bullied, and I was talked down to by Mr. Tomlin,? she said. ?He said to me, ?You borrow our money and don?t want to pay the contractor. We didn?t have to loan you this money. You may as well sign because Mr. Goode will take you to arbitration or court and put a lien on your home.??

Tomlin and Goode declined to comment on Stanley?s account of that meeting.

Eventually, Stanley reluctantly signed off on the work. She said she cried as she drove to her unheated home.

Records show that city inspectors later found that the water heater and furnace were improperly vented and could have caused a fire or even killed her.

The court-appointed receiver?s office recently replaced them.

Stanley said that HEDFC officials had repeatedly assured her that ?we got you covered; we have an adviser and an inspector, and we will make sure the work is done right.?

?I trusted them,? she said.

The story until now

The city canceled its contracts with the Housing and Economic Development Financial Corp. earlier this year, about the time federal officials barred its top officers from involvement in many federal housing programs.

The action came after The Kansas City Star revealed last October that the housing agency had spent or been billed more than $1.1 million restoring two homes on Tracy Avenue that were then assessed together at about $46,000.

The FBI, the U.S. attorney?s office and the Housing and Urban Development inspector general are conducting a criminal investigation of the agency.

Meanwhile, a court-appointed receiver is attempting to sort out the agency?s finances.

For 30 years, HEDFC had been the primary agency through which millions of federal housing dollars flowed for building and financing moderate- and low-income housing.

To reach Mike McGraw, call (816) 234-4423 or send e-mail to mcgraw@kcstar.com . To reach Michael Mansur, call (816) 234-4433 or send e-mail to mmansur@kcstar.com .

Note the request for kickbacks from contractors, and the use of unlicensed contractors. How about the million plus spent on two houses which appraised at 46K, nice waste of money too.


NACHI Vice President

NACHI Foundation, President

Convention Coordinator