News10NBC Investigates: Family says a contractor left them cold

Deanna Dewberry
Created: November 14, 2019 08:10 PM

GREECE, N.Y. (WHEC) — Imagine having a hole in your floor during the chill of a Western New York winter. That's the case for one Greece family who hired a contractor five months ago to build an addition to their home. They say the contractor left them cold, literally.

The Bradleys recently welcomed a new family member. Jenny Bradley had a baby in late May and now they need more space for the family of seven. So they took out a loan for an addition to be built on their home.


"We interviewed a ton of contractors and were trying to find someone perfect for the job," Jenny said.

When they found Stafford Smith, the owner of Carpentry Concepts, they thought they had indeed found the perfect contractor, a man who understood the needs of this young family.

"He said, ‘I want to do this pro bono for you. He said this addition would typically cost $85,000 to $90,000," Jenny said.

But Smith said he would do it for $60,000 and could finish in two and a half months. He asked for half upfront So on May 16, they paid Smith $30,000.

And he wanted something else.

"The first $30,000 was made out directly to him," Jenny said.

That's right. The contractor wanted the check made out to him, not his business.

"He only worked two full days, and then he stopped by the next week for a few hours," Jenny said.

She says he then disappeared for two months. She texted him constantly, and he’d promise he was coming the next day, but he repeatedly failed to show up.

"He just abandoned the job after leaving this mess," Jenny said.

He left lumber piled in the yard, and the addition still has a mud floor. But inspectors with the town of Greece said her problems were bigger than that. 

I talked to the director of technical services for Greece. He told me there were hazards. The furnace exhaust pipes were coming into the addition which posed a carbon monoxide risk, and a major electric line was running through the unfinished room, which posed an electrocution risk.  

"The town, they shut our whole job down they put a no work order on it,” Jenny said.

No work could resume until problems were fixed.  

As of this Thursday, five months after he started, the addition is a shell, and the contractor has left a hole about 15 inches in diameter in the floor of her finished basement. That hole is connected to the shell of a new addition. Frigid air and bugs are coming through the hole, making the basement bedroom of two of her children very uncomfortable. 

So I called the contractor. He refused an on-camera interview but agreed to talk to me by phone. He says before he started the work and the Bradley’s home, he told them he had other work that had to be done that might mean he wouldn’t be able to finish the job, and he says he never gave her a timeline for completion. 

As for that electrocution and carbon monoxide hazards, he says he had always planned to move the lines.

So News10NBC investigative reporter Deanna Dewberry called the contractor.

“Why did you ask her to make that $30,000 check to you?" she asked.

“Why would I not?” he responded.  

"You should never give a payment to a contractor in his own name,” Carmen Santora, the executive director of the Better Contractor’s Bureau, said.

“Is that a big red flag?” Dewberry asked Santora.

“It's one of the biggest probably,” Santora said.

He stressed that all payments should be made to the contractor’s business, and state law mandates that all payments be kept in escrow to be used during construction. Santora says there were other red flags.

The so-called contract the Bradley's signed was handwritten on a form that said “contractor’s invoice” at the top.  
Santora said the document meets none of the requirements of state law, like informing the consumer that the payments must be in an escrow account. 

General business law also mandates the contracts tell the consumer he/she has three days to change their mind, and clearly indicate the specifics of the project.

Dewberry asked Smith, "I would think you would know that state law mandates that there are several things that must be included in a contract if the job is over $500?"

He was silent, and later indicated he wasn’t aware of the specific information the law requires in a contract.

"That's why I'm wondering if you're usually in charge of a job this big, or are you a contractor who does the framing?” Dewberry asked Smith.

After a long pause, he admitted he is a subcontractor.  As for the Bradleys, they have the following advice:

“Do more than your due diligence because I thought I did but clearly I didn’t,” Jenny said.
Stafford Smith told Dewberry he is more than willing to finish the job for the Bradleys. The couple told Dewberry they no longer trust him.

Before you hire a contractor, here’s Deanna’s Do List:

  1. Get at least three bids.
  2. Do a background check, like checking the Better Contractor’s Bureau.
  3. Ask for proof of insurance.
  4.  Get a written contract.  The Better Contractors Bureau has provided an example of what it should look like.
  5. Never pay full price up front.  The BBB suggests pay a third up front, a third in the middle, and a third at completion.
  6. Report problems to the BBB, the Attorney General’s Office or the Better Contractors Bureau.

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Comment on Facebook