Raleigh homeowner learns hard lesson about contract cancel clause
Posted February 27, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."