HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A Huntsville woman says she paid a contractor more than $170,000 to overhaul her new home but now, the project has come to a screeching halt.
City officials say the contractor she hired did not have the proper credentials.
M Powell thought she'd be spending the holidays in her totally renovated dream home in Huntsville, but that won't be happening. Months have gone by and things are in shambles, she said.
"I was to celebrate my 77th birthday here in January. I have a shell of a house. I have a shell of a garage and a mess," Powell added. "I hired a contractor. We signed the contract August 2. The work started August 3. Now he is nowhere."
The project on Riley Road was supposed to be completed in three months. Now, almost five months have passed and the job is not done.
"It's not even half way finished," Powell stated.
Her house is nestled in a neighborhood behind Parkway Place Mall and she says devastated now that things have fallen apart with the remodeling.
"It's emotional and financial violation of a 77 year old single female," she said in an interview at the job site.
According to her, workers have not been on her property since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 22.
Everywhere you look around the house, there are unfinished projects and some safety concerns. Powell pointed out nails that are sticking out of the fence and leaks that have caused structural problems.
"It's just added expenses on me to finish the home, not knowing if I'll get any of my money back," she added.
A stop work order posted on the front of the house dated November 30 by the city's inspection department says "unlicensed contractor" on the bottom. The man hired to do the work, Charlie McCall Smith Sr., 64, of Madison, also known as "Mac," was arrested by Huntsville police and charged with Home Repair Fraud – 1st Offense, which is a misdemeanor.
"It was reported last month after the victim made multiple payments to him for a home renovation project. He failed to complete the work and that's why he was charged," said Lt. Stacy Bates.
HPD investigators say they're still sorting through financial records. Powell says she paid Smith $176.000.
"He's put a little money into this house and garage, but only enough money to show that this started and this is started and so is this, but nothing is finished," Powell said.
The city building department also cited Smith for performing work without the proper licenses, according to Huntsville Director of Inspections Randy Cunningham.
"I did not ask him if he had a license. He was recommended to me by a very good friend," Powell explained.
When crews started work outside, Powell says Smith asked her to buy the permit, telling her it would be cheaper.
"I found out that was not the truth. He also did not put the amount of our contract on the permit," she stated.
She says she's approached him several times about her money, but didn't get a clear answer from him.
When asked about Powell's project, Mac Smith said it's all a misunderstanding that he's looking to get resolved quickly. He denied the allegations of fraud and improper licensing. He says he would like to finish the job, but can't because of the city's stop work order and charges.
"She has paid me money according to the terms of the contract," he said. "I've done nothing but what I was licensed to do on that job."
The Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board is now looking into Smith for being an unlicensed home builder. They're working with Huntsville Police, the Madison County District Attorney's Office, and the City Building Department. They say they're building a case to see if additional charges will be brought against him.
As for Powell, she's interviewing contractors to figure out what can be done to get the job finished, but being out so much money, it will be hard to turn it into what she saved up her whole life to create.
"I don't want to see anyone else go through what I've gone through," she said. "This was my savings to do the remodeling and I've filed for a reverse mortgage, which I've been approved. It has to be finished by February 28th or I lose what I've been grandfathered in on. There's a new plan that will be less to me $60,000 that I will have to apply for if I'm not in by February 28th."
Officials urge those using an engineer or general contractor or land surveyor for a project to ask for their credentials and make sure that they come from the appropriate licensing board. If you have problems, contact the respective board and officials can advise you from there about what additional steps to take.
Mac Smith is set to appear in court on the fraud charge and licensing violation in February.
A complaint filed in Madison County Circuit Court also names Smith and accuses him of fraud in a 2016 business deal in Madison. The plaintiff, Melinda Freeman, owns Nina's Place Home Furnishings, Inc., located on Highway 72, which included a furniture store and a warehouse. According to court documents, Freeman started plans to liquidate the store and warehouse, and was approached by Smith who said he wanted to gain access to the space as soon as possible to open his business, a dance studio.
She told him that he would have to buy out the entire store and warehouse furniture inventory at a reduced cost and reimburse her for rent and utilities.
He agreed to pay the landlord rent and utilities and to allow her to keep items in the warehouse free of charge. She left for a trip to Peru and says while she was gone, Smith contracted with a separate liquidation company and sold all of her warehouse inventory, including pre-sold customer items, tools, and landlord equipment and failed to pay rent as agreed.
Freeman lost more than $100,000 in sales and her warehouse furniture inventory by moving out of the store early," the complaint states. The case will be brought back to court in late January.
When asked about the case involving Melinda Freeman specifically, Smith said he had no comment due to the pending litigation.
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