5 On Your Side

State Sues Man Over Botched Home-Remodeling Job

Posted July 19, 2007 6:52 p.m. EDT

— Attorney General Roy Cooper filed suit Thursday against a Franklin County man who received almost $125,000 from a Wake Forest couple to make their home handicapped-accessible but left them with unfinished rooms, holes in the floor and live wires dangling from the ceiling.

John Shearer, who does business as Home Remodeling Solutions, was ordered not to perform any more home repairs, pending a July 30 court hearing to address the allegations against him.

Carol McPhaul hired Shearer a year ago to remodel her 1,100-square-foot Wake Forest home to make it more accessible and comfortable for herself -- she is legally blind -- and her 79-year-old husband, George McPhaul, who is recovering from a stroke and is on oxygen therapy.

Over time, she has paid Shearer $124,463 for repairs, the suit alleges. He also charged about $20,000 to her credit card for supplies that were never delivered to her home, according to the suit.

The kitchen in the McPhaul's home now features missing counter tops, unfinished cabinets, a dishwasher sitting in the middle of the floor, exposed electrical outlets, a hole in the ceiling and a couple of others in the floor that go down to the dirt in the crawlspace.

"I'm heartbroken. I'm really heartbroken. (It's) all I can do not to cry every day," Carol McPhaul said. "Mentally, I'm beat. Emotionally, I cried for weeks and weeks."

Shearer never started work on a bedroom and handicapped-accessible bathroom for George McPhaul, the suit alleges.

"This is what we have, and all of our savings are gone," Carol McPhaul said.

Shearer isn't a licensed contractor in North Carolina and never obtained building permits from Wake Forest for the project.

The suit alleges that he pressured the couple into various change-orders that ran up the bill before stopping all work in April.

Cooper called Shearer a "fraudster" in a statement issued Thursday, alleging he is guilty of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

“We've stopped this so-called contractor from ripping up any more homes and ripping off any more consumers,” he said in the statement. “This couple spent their hard-earned money trying to improve their home but got left with a disaster.”

Shearer told WRAL that he has done nothing wrong. He said he has already put about $91,000 of work into the McPhauls' home, including a completed hall bathroom renovation.

"Nothing shady has been done here whatsoever," he said in a telephone interview from Delaware. "I'm a nice guy. I'm honest. I try to do the right thing. I've done nothing wrong and would love nothing more than to get this straightened out."

Shearer called the McPhauls' situation "horrid" and said he stopped work in April because they couldn't afford to finish the job. Problems from a fire at the home a decade ago were much worse than he first accounted for, he said.

The temporary restraining order issued Thursday by Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones also requires that any proceeds from the sale of Shearer’s own home, which is on the market, go to the court to potentially be used to reimburse consumers.

The lawsuit seeks a court order that would permanently bar Shearer from handling home remodeling projects and would require him to reimburse affected consumers.

"I never sleep a full night anymore," Carol McPhaul said as she surveyed the disarray inside her home. "I get up, and I walk around and say, 'I can't believe this. I just can't believe what is here.'"