A big home improvement project can wipe away your savings, sometimes your entire nest egg. So you want to make sure the money doesn't go to waste.
Action News Troubleshooters responded to complaints from two different consumers who used the same contractor.
Because their projects were such big investments, both Bucks County consumers really wanted a contractor they felt they could trust, so they hired someone who lives right in their neighborhood.
But as you'll read, proximity doesn't necessarily mean perfection. In fact, these consumers say they got anything but.
Back in June of 2015, the Webers hired a contractor to build a second story addition.
More than a year later - last summer - they showed us what had been completed so far.
"Things like this that are brand new are falling off," Theresa Weber told Action News as she pointed out an unstable front porch light.
Charles Weber showed us siding that appears unsecured, loose, and falling off.
Fast-forward to last month, the Troubleshooters revisited the Weber home and found the project still incomplete.
"I am sick, absolutely sick about it," Weber said.
There was still no final electrical inspection which means no certificate of occupancy which means, according to the township, the Webers aren't supposed to use the addition for which they paid $85,000.
"My biggest concern is the electrical. I have kids. I don't want to go to sleep at night for fear that my house is going to burn down," Weber said.
The Webers don't have to go far to get in touch with their contractor.
Rich Wombough of Rich's Total Home Improvement LLC lives just a few streets away.
"Does it cut even deeper because you do know him personally as part of your neighborhood," I asked Weber.
"Of course it does. Besides the fact it was our life savings," Weber said.
Carol Wagner-Bell signed a contract with Wombough for $12,000 and later gave him another $1,400 for a new garage door she says doesn't always work.
"He said I live two streets away and I'll come back and do anything that needs to be done," Wagner-Bell said.
But the Wagner-Bells told us Wombough wasn't keeping his word with them either.
"I'm hurt. My husband's 80. We could never afford to do this again," Wagner-Bell said. "We got some of the stuff fixed and it cost us more money."
Off-camera Wombough tells us he didn't know the Wagner-Bells had these lingering issues.
And as for the Webers? Wombough says he thought some of the problems had already been fixed and he's been waiting for the Webers to provide him a final punch list.
"I don't want him to do it. I've already had two other contractors come out and give me estimates," Weber said.
The Troubleshooters were able to facilitate a satisfactory resolution for the Wagner-Bells.
Last month, Wombough promised to fix their issues and reimburse them more than $800, which they paid another contractor.
"I think you did a good job on trying to get him to come to a settlement," Wagner-Bell told the Troubleshooters. "I don't know what I would have done without you."
So far, Wombough is keeping his latest promise to the Wagner-Bells.
The Webers have now filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office seeking $85,000 from Wombough. While Wombough says Theresa Weber "threw false accusations" and "refuses to let me work on her house" anymore.
Wombough also claims, "I've performed all duties as per my contract" and "the final inspection passed." But while a final Building inspection did pass, a final electrical inspection must still be approved for the Webers to be able to use their addition.
Advice when hiring a contractor:
-The biggest take-away from this situation is before you hire a home improvement contractor, do a thorough walk-through of a job he's already completed so you can really inspect the workmanship for yourself. That applies even if the contractor is someone you know personally or someone right in your own neighborhood.
-Ask previous customers about their experience. Two good questions: Is there anything about working with this contractor you didn't like? And would you recommend this person to your best friend?
-Make sure a contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. You can call your state Attorney General for that information or check online.
-Check for complaints against the contractor with your state Attorney General's office, your county consumer affairs department, the Better Business Bureau, and online.
-Do not pay the final third of the contracted price until after EVERYTHING has been completed to your satisfaction. Make sure your agreement is written this way as well.
-Check these links to file a complaint against a contractor and for more important state information including what should be written into your contract including a start and completion date, materials used, etc.
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