Business

JoCo DA sues seven home remodelers. Customers cried no work, no materials, no refunds

Contractor sued over unfinished work at a church

The lawsuit was one of seven filed by Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe after consumers complained.
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The lawsuit was one of seven filed by Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe after consumers complained.

Knute Rosche was on the lookout for a contractor when he met Michael Philpot at a home improvement center’s open house for contractors. Now, the Johnson County district attorney has gone after Philpot.

Philpot, a remodeler who did business as Philpot Floor Coverings and Contractors, was set up in the plumbing section of the store. Just the skills Rosche needed for some work at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Rosche said he “embarrassingly” did not check out Philpot further before hiring him to renovate two showers in the church’s restrooms.

“I just got sucked in by his personality, his sincereness,” Rosche said. “I liked this guy.”

Nearly a year later, the work remains unfinished, and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe has sued Philpot and his business.

The case is one of seven that Howe’s office brought Friday against contractors for botched jobs involving nine consumers, including Grace Covenant. In total, the county seeks more than $40,900 for the consumers and fines of $10,000 for each violation of state law. Additional penalties apply in cases that involve older consumers, a member of the military and another consumer in a protected class.

The lawsuits claim that the remodelers, working independently, accepted money from their customers and left them in some cases with no materials, no work and no refunds. In other cases, some work or materials were provided, even some refunds, but jobs remained unfinished and money unearned.

Such claims are widespread and constituted the worst complaints reported last year by city, county and state consumer agencies, according to a survey released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America.

In addition to being the worst, home improvement and construction complaints ranked second in number nationwide only to complaints about car sales and repairs, the report said.

None of the individuals or the firms named in the lawsuits could be reached for comment Monday.

Rosche said Philpot “disappeared” for long stretches while the work sat unfinished.

The complaint against Philpot seeks $1,140 for the church and $8,540.99 for an Overland Park man for a different project Philpot had taken on.

Another lawsuit seeks $5,000 from Conrad Hardwood Flooring & Construction LLC in Shawnee and Christopher Conrad on behalf of two consumers — one in Shawnee and one in Kansas City — who had hired the firm to install floors.

A third lawsuit seeks $2,750 from Midwest Masonry LLC and Donald Nasgowitz, also known as Donald Grabowski Jr., in Kansas City, Kan. An Olathe resident had complained and had gotten a judgment against Midwest Masonry over a project on which no work has been done, the lawsuit said.

Howe sued A&E Home Construction and Erick Humphrey of Lansing, Kan., seeking $12,880 for incomplete basement work at an Overland Park residence. The complaint said that A&E claimed on its Facebook page to be a licensed contractor when it was not licensed in the county, and that A&E failed to get permits for the project, which was only 70 percent completed.

The homeowner had to pay another contractor $12,880 to finish the job, the lawsuit said.

Another lawsuit seeks $7,600 from Taylor Home Remodeling and Christopher Taylor of Raytown. It said Taylor demolished a master bathroom but did not complete the remodeling job and misrepresented that the firm was licensed to do work in Johnson County.

Taylor also had told the district attorney’s office he would pay a $7,600 refund but did not make the payment, the lawsuit said.

Precision Home Finishing LLC and Aaron Hook of Garnett, Kan., were sued after an Overland Park resident complained that his $2,260 deposit had produced no work and no materials in connection with a plumbing and electrical job. Precision Home Finishing also was not registered in Johnson County, the suit said.

A lawsuit seeks $750 from Handyman Unlimited and Dana L. Vinsonhaler of Lee’s Summit. It said a Leawood resident had made a down payment for a window installation, but no work was done.

Howe’s office sued the contractors after consumers complained. The district attorney and others routinely urge consumers to check up on contractors or others before making any payments or hiring them for projects.

In some instances, even a home remodeler who passed customers’ checks can leave unstarted and unfinished projects. Building Pro in Lee’s Summit became the target of investigations by the Johnson County district attorney and the Missouri attorney general after at least 18 customers complained.

Homeowners with concerns about a contractor they’ve hired also can seek help from the Better Business Bureau and any remodeling organization or online listing service that includes the contractor. Payments by credit card can be challenged at the credit card company if work is substandard or incomplete.

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