Dozens of complaints dog Cary-based remodeler
Posted March 28, 2011 6:08 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2011 12:54 p.m. EDT
From a kitchenette to a bedroom to a TV room, the vision for Jason and Kim Weed’s attic is awesome.
“It was a basic stud attic,” said Jason Weed. “There's about 1,100 square feet up here to finish and we thought since the economy was down, we would be kicking ourselves later if we didn't finish it now while the prices were good.”
Instead, he’s kicking himself now. That’s because the room is far from complete.
The debacle began last year when, after interviewing five contractors and checking with the Better Business Bureau, Weed hired Home Restoration Assistance or HRA. The Cary-based business is owned by Ryan Wells and his wife, Lauren Griffith.
The cost of the remodel: $20,000. “He wasn't the lowest price, but he seemed very professional,” said Weed.
Work began in October and was supposed to be finished by the end of November. As work progressed, Weed says he paid a total of about $14,000. The job seemed to be going well. “His contractors were always on time. They were very respectful. Every contractor that was used was great,” Weed said.
That was until the end of November, when Weed says work stopped. Soon after, a subcontractor told Weed he had not been paid. “Then, you know, the first of the year we get a letter from this company saying he's out of business,” Weed said.
So far, Weed is one of at least 22 people now complaining about Wells. Most say they are out money.
- Chuck and Nancy Reagan bought a home hoping to retire and say they paid Wells $50,000 to remodel it.
- Mark Lacey said he paid Wells more than $52,000 for a "major home renovation" and "HRA never started the project."
- Paul Rehm answered a promotional email just weeks before the company closed. He says he paid Wells $5,000 down.
- Combined, customers say they are out about $270,000!
And because Wells is not a licensed contractor, legally, he wasn't even allowed to do some of the jobs he agreed to do. Under North Carolina law, a contractor must be licensed to accept any job over $30,000.
WRAL found pages of complaints on the Internet, and an "out of business" sign on the door of HRA's Cary office.
Early this year, a number of homeowners including the Weeds anonymously received a packet of information. It included a photo which the sender says is of a white board in Wells’ office. It has dozens of addresses, job statuses and dollar amounts. The packet also included an enlarged photo of Wells.
At the Wells' Apex home, 5 On Your Side found tire tracks in the front yard, a foreclosure notice on the front door and a busted back door that allowed a glimpse of the complete mess inside. We called Wells' seven different phone numbers. All but two are disconnected. Messages were not returned.
At this point, Weed just wants to get the word out.
“My concern is he's gonna open up shop somewhere else and do it again,” Weed said.
He is now working directly with the subcontractors to get his job done. But he believes Wells should be arrested, although he says police told him it's a civil matter.
“He should be prosecuted for that,” said Weed. “The laws don't allow for it so I believe he's gonna do it again, and you'll have the same story in another year and a half.”
Despite what local police told Weed, investigators in Cary are looking into possible criminal charges against Ryan Wells because of multiple cases there. Also, Wells' bankruptcy attorney tells us he plans to file bankruptcy soon, and that there likely won't be any money left to pay back homeowners.