WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - Kathy and Marty Robbins have been displaced from their West Ashley home for more than a year now.
In last October's 1,000-year flood, eleven people died in South Carolina. Thousands were displaced and it took months for some businesses to clean up.
The Robbins say they thought everything would start to go back to normal after FEMA paid their insurance $87,000 for home repairs.
"They told us we had to get a licensed contractor do the work- we couldn't touch the house ourselves," he explained. Marty says he got four bids and the one from Joe Masters, who owns JPM Construction in Goose Creek, was the only one approved.
"They said, well, if you want your house done, you'll take him or you'll have to wait. So we said we don't really care who does it as long as it gets done," Marty said.
The work started in February of this year and was supposed to be done by April. The deadline kept getting pushed back.
Marty listed some items off the 49-page FEMA repair report. "They were supposed to go in, dry out the house, cut sheet rock four feet down, and tear the top layer of the floor off, do mold mitigation."
They didn't want to live in a construction zone so they temporarily moved to Florida where they have a second small home for when they retire. It wasn't really ready to move into, they said, but it was better than the flooded home in West Ashley.
They were coming back to check on the work when they could, and then Kathy was diagnosed with cancer. "So I could not come back and forth and check on the job. My son would come over and take pictures- he said Dad there's not a whole lot happening."
They noticed Joe Masters' license with the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation expired in January. In July, the house was still not finished. They were concerned because their insurance required a licensed contractor to be doing the work.
Eventually, they told Masters he was off the job and called Live 5 to investigate whether he was overpaid.
Masters returned our call and referred us to his attorney, Jay Masty. Masty said Joe Masters was paid $32,000 for his work on the home.
"This was a failed project from the beginning I think," Masty said via phone. "He got as far as deconstructing. Removal of sheetrock, removal of floors, removal or some of the joists. He did not want to put in new floors until he could solve the excess water under the foundation system."
Masty says the project got delayed because of those moisture issues and that Marty and Kathy kept asking for changes.
The bottom line is that no actual re-construction work was ever done, and the house is uninhabitable as it now sits.
Masty said he did not think it was likely the deconstructive work done was worth the $32,000 Masters received.
"He likely was overpaid. And I think Joe would say he probably owes them money. I reached out the homeowners, I talked to them today," Masty said.
Masty says they are hoping to work out a settlement offer in the case.
Marty and Kathy are considering that. They still want to warn other homeowners to be involved any time you have people working on your home.
"Make sure you know what's going on. We didn't. And that's part of it," said Kathy.
- Ask at least three companies for bids based on the same requirements. Discuss the bids in detail with each contractor and ask them about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced bid may not be the best.
- Ask about the company’s insurance. Does it carry worker’s compensation, property damage and liability insurance? Ask for proof of insurance or for the name of an insurance agent you can call to verify
- the coverage.
- Ask whether the contractor is licensed for the type of work you need. Does the firm meet the bonding requirements of your town, county or state?
- Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed. The contractor should be aware of any permits or inspections that may be required.
- Ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver when the job is completed. A lien waiver is a statement that all suppliers and contractors have been paid for materials and labor.
- Ask for a contract and read it. Get any verbal promises in writing. Make sure the contract includes the start date and expected completion date.
- Don’t pay the entire amount due until the work is completed and you are satisfied. Be careful if a contractor wants to be paid in full up front. In some cases, a contractor may need a down payment to cover materials. But the bulk of the money should not be due until the work is complete.
Always check a company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
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