WESTLAND, Mich. - Some neighbors in Westland thought they were getting good deals on new cement driveways.
They say they hired WNH Nationwide Concrete Construction and Landscape Design, owned by William Kahn. Sadly, those good deals now seem too good to be true, and those neighbors contacted Ruth to the Rescue for help.
Barb Proudlock of Westland told Ruth to the Rescue about her experience with William Kahn and WNH.
She said that $1,500 was a down payment on a $3,000 job. WNH was supposed to pour a new driveway and front porch. Proudlock says the company tore up her driveway and dismantled her porch on May 3rd, but has never come back to finish the job.
"Like two weeks later, he says 'I have a truck ready to go and we'll be out tomorrow morning' Never showed, never showed," said Barb Proudlock of Westland.
In the meantime, it's been hard for Barb and her husband to get in and out of their home. Some boards cover the area that used to be their front porch. In particular, Barb's husband has a hard time without the porch, "He's almost fallen a couple times. I have to walk across first, get down and then help him."
Steve Durham is Proudlock's neighbor down the street. He says he paid Proudlock $3,800 for his new driveway. His job was completed, but Durham says he's not satisfied with the quality of the job.
"We don't have any more money to pay somebody to fix it," he said. "I have a signed contract, he said three year warranty on the contract." Durham has been talking with neighbors and found other people who also say William Kahn didn't finish their cement jobs.
The Ruth to the Rescue consumer unit started looking into the situation on May 23rd. When we met Barb Proudlock she had already hired someone else to fix her driveway and porch. She was frustrated with the lack of response from WNH. "I want my $1,500 back," she said. "And he said, 'OK. I'll get it back
to you, but it's gonna be awhile. I'm a little strapped for money right now.'"
Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer went to the address we found for WNH Nationwide online. It was a home in Belleville. She spoke with some people who described themselves as former employees of William Kahn. They said they had befriended him and decided to work together, but things had not gone well.
Nina Roberts said she was Kahn's secretary. "He actually admitted to us the other day. He's like 'I was bidding these jobs too low to where we weren't getting enough profit, cause if we were getting a better profit we would have no problem with our creditors.'"
Ruth to the Rescue has heard from two subcontractors who claim Kahn owes them close to $15,000. While Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer was talking with Roberts, Kahn called on a cell phone. He said he was in Ohio, but would be returning to Michigan to do another job on Thursday, June 4th.
He told Spencer, "I will honestly show you I'm a man of my word and I will be there to face the news channel." He made plans to come to the TV station on June 4th for a face-to-face interview. He did not show up, in spite of offering a spirited self-defense on the phone that day.
"One thing I want to do is take care of every single one of my customers. I'm not a scam artist. I'm not one to just take from these people," he told Ruth to the Rescue. Kahn tried to answer his customer complaints. He said bad weather prevented him from finishing some of his jobs and when the weather
was dry, he couldn't get cement delivered.
"What happened is I got too ahead of myself. I got too gung-ho and I got too big too fast and made bad decisions," he told Ruth to the Rescue.
According to public documents, Kahn has a history of bad decisions. Ruth to the Rescue research has confirmed he has a criminal record. It includes convictions for check fraud and battery. All of this leaves his dissastified customers vowing to do things differently when hiring contractors in the future.
"I've learned... research. If you're gonna hire a company you've never heard of... research it." said Steve Durham of Westland.
Consumer Guidelines for Hiring Contractors
Proudlock and Durham both admit they wish they'd done more research before signing on with WNH Nationwide Concrete Construction and Landscape Design. Working with the Better Business Bureau, Ruth to the Rescue assembled these guidelines to help you when hiring a contractor.
*Do your homework! Check online reviews, check with the Better Business Bureau, and solicit references from friends. In this case, some neighbors were giving WNH more work before he finished other jobs in the neighborhood. Make sure a contractor had done a good job for someone you trust, from start to finish, before hiring that company.
*Solicit at least two to three bids before making your decision. Some of William Kahn's customers say they were taken in by the very low prices he was offering. If you get a few bids, you'll be able to spot if someone is charging too far below the market value.
*Remember the lowest bid might not always be the best bid. The contractor might lower his/her costs by using inferior materials, unskilled workers, or failing to be properly insured.
*Ask for references, and check them. If possible, visit previous work sites to judge the quality of the work.
*Find out if the company is part of any professional organizations and verify the company has a good reputation.
*Request proof of insurance.
*Check to make sure all licenses are valid and up to date.
*Make sure you have a written contract that spells out all the details of the job: cost, date of completion, payment schedule, and cleanup requirements. Never sign a blank contract and make sure you have a copy of the signed document for your records.
*Never pay for the entire job up front.
*Talk to the contractor about permits. Some contractors will ask you to pull your own permits, if needed. If the contractor offers to pull the permits, make sure you request proof that has been done.
*Understand, subcontractors who are not paid can come after the homeowner to recoup their money. You should ask for a waiver of lien that shows your contractor has paid everyone as promised.
To check on a contractor or get more information from the Better Business Bureau, follow this link.