5 On Your Side

Raleigh homeowner learns hard lesson about contract cancel clause

Posted February 27

— It's a frightening way to wake up: Someone banging on your door because flames are tearing through your home at one o'clock in the morning.

"Fire! Fire! It was engulfed," Sonny Dellinger said describing the chaos when his home on Coxindale Drive in Raleigh burned last December. "I was just ... I was in shock."

Dellinger now says the fallout from the fire is almost as overwhelming. He says Frank Bryant with Florida-based disaster recovery company Kustom US seemed to just appear in the mayhem.

Dellinger remembers he immediately agreed to allow the company to "secure" his home with plywood and a tarp. Only hours later, while standing outside and staring at the charred home, Bryant had Dellinger initial paperwork allowing the company to remove the contents of the home and check a third box listing "reconstruction."

"I thought at that point I was signing for contents to get out of the house and I okayed that," says Dellinger. He didn't realize that, less than 24 hours after his house burned, he was agreeing to allow Bryant and Kustom US to rebuild the home, even though the company hadn't even provided a price.

"Yes, that's correct," Dellinger told 5 On Your Side.

A couple weeks later, Kustom US gave Dellinger a 28-page estimate detailing every bit of tape and paint, every door knob and even light bulb that would be repaired or replaced. The total cost: $140,000.

Dellinger received bids from other companies as well. In January, he hired one of them. He was floored by the response from Frank Bryant and Kustom US.

"He said that's fine. He says you can cancel the contract but you'll owe us 20 percent," Dellinger recalled. That would be a hefty $28,041.10.

"At that point in time a 69-year-old man felt like an idiot," Dellinger said.

5 On Your Side called Kustom US and questioned Frank Bryant about the agreement.

One issue of concern was whether Kustom US properly notified Dellinger about his right to cancel the agreement within three days. State law is very specific about cancellation rights. When a salesperson comes to your home unsolicited, North Carolina law requires that you receive notice and that it include among other things, specific information about applicable dates, be easily detachable and also be verbally communicated. Kustom's contract had two lines in fine print at the end of a paragraph. Bryant told 5 On Your Side that everything on his end was "aboveboard." He directed us to the corporate office. No one returned repeated calls.

But this week, Kustom US called Dellinger saying they were releasing him from that 20 percent charge.

He is relieved. But has advice for everyone, just in case. "All I can say to people is beware, get some people around you that you trust and ask for help," Dellinger said, his voice cracking and tears beginning to build in his eyes. "And don't do anything `til you know."

10 Comments

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  • gwilliams9874 Feb 28, 5:31 p.m.

    Having experienced a fire I can tell you first hand I was approached by multiple restorations companies at the time of the fire and days after. I personally met Mr. Bryant with Kustom and even though I decided to handle my repairs with family in the construction industry, Mr Bryant was still out there helping even after I told him that I would most likely use a family member for the repairs. He offered me most importantly a blanket and sweats because it was freezing cold outside, water, and information on what steps I should take all while knowing I wasn't utilizing his company. He was there to help and was very genuine, I did not receive that same treatment from some of the other companies out there. Most of them were rude and very inconsiderate, not Mr Bryant you could tell he was genuine and actually cared. Anyone in this situation needs to look at all the information before making a decision. If you signed a contract it shouldnt take you 3 weeks to realize what you signed.

  • katncarolina Feb 28, 2:01 p.m.

    It is very sad the the "true story" was not reported.

    1) There were at least three other restoration services there that night.

    2) All Restoration Services work with the insurance adjustor.

    The home owner also failed to mention how Kustom worked on the home for 3 weeks then on the advice of his insurance adjustor decided to change to a different Restoration Service. And expected to not pay for any work the Company had already performed.

    Mr. Bryant helped the home owner that night dig through the ash & mess to recover some of his personal belongings, boarded his home and made sure it was secure, and made sure he had a place to stay and transportation.

    Shame on WRAL for attacking someones character without all the facts.

    Sunny wanted a way out of a legally binding contract...and he found it!

  • pause to consider Feb 28, 1:15 p.m.

    He was lucky the co. backed off the 20%.

    a) I never buy anything from someone that approaches me. If I'm not looking for it, I don't need it.

    b) Who makes it to 69 and not ask the basics of an agreement? I usually ask about the exit clause before I even get to the cost estimates.

    c) Never sign anything, especially under duress, if you haven't read the whole contract. If the contract is long, then you should take a long time to read and understand it.

    My 2 cents.

  • JAT Feb 28, 11:57 a.m.

    didn't he think he should wait to hear from his insurance company? some people just have no common sense.

  • Billy the Kid Feb 28, 11:27 a.m.

    This is why every door to door salesman gets a NO.

  • scubagirl2 Feb 28, 9:59 a.m.

    69 years old and doesn't realize the responsibility that comes with signing a contract ? Wow ! I... View More

    — Posted by BadDayforButch

    What part of being in SHOCK don't you get? You watch your home burn down, someone 'appears' and says they'll help you......

    I can understand how he might get fleeced....Hope you never have to experience what this 69 yo did and IF you do...come back and let us know how calm you were.

  • lec02572 Feb 28, 8:48 a.m.

    He is so lucky.

  • areyououtofyourmind Feb 28, 8:24 a.m.

    Cut him some slack baddayforbutch. His house was just on fire, it's 3 o'clock in the morning (fire was at 1, guy appeared couple of hours later,) and it's complete mayhem.

    Have you ever lived through a fire? I have. He's right, it's complete mayhem. Not everyone is as calm and collective during every second of their life like you apparently are.

  • jmrado47 Feb 27, 7:45 p.m.

    Never sign anything in haste especially in a weakened state. Tell the person that you want to sleep on it.

  • BadDayforButch Feb 27, 7:44 p.m.

    69 years old and doesn't realize the responsibility that comes with signing a contract ? Wow ! I could understand it with an 18 year old but come on.