IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) – What started as a simple roofing job has turned into a nightmare for an Ionia couple.

They hired a business known as Upton’s Quality Construction to do the work, but now they tell Target 8 “there is no quality there.”

After paying more than $11,000, Denise and Randy Shattuck are left with a mess on their property and a roof that is at risk of collapse at any time.

Dennis Upton, the roofer who did the incomplete and shoddy work, has disappeared. He is now on the run from the family and the law.

“It’s just a mess,” Denise Shattuck said as she sat in her dining room with Target 8. “My husband is on disability and I work, but I don’t make a fortune by any means.”

She wiped away tears as she talked about the $20,000 it will take to repair the mess left behind.

The Shattucks’ ordeal started in January when they decided to have some work done on their Ionia home. Inside, they wanted new drywall and a textured ceiling in the bedroom. Outside, they wanted the flat roof on the back side of their home turned into a pitched roof.

The Shattucks put a post on Facebook looking for recommendations. Dennis Upton and Upton’s Quality Construction was one of several companies to respond.

The couple thought they did everything right. They insisted the contractor be licensed and insured. Upton came out to the home twice. At $8,500, his bid fell in the middle of those the couple received.

“He called and said I have my insurance,” Denise Shattuck said.

The next day, he came by and they signed the contract. The Shattucks didn’t notice that the insurance policy had been purchased the day before and didn’t know that despite his claims, Upton is not licensed.

“We assumed he was licensed by having the insurance,” she said.

Shortly into the job, Upton told the couple another part of the roof needed to be redone as well. Despite that second section of the roof being only a couple of years old, the Shattucks agreed to pay Upton an additional $3,000 to fix it.

Days later, there was more work to be done – a shed behind the house needed a new roof too, Upton said. The Shattucks paid another $75 to get that done.

Weeks after the job was supposed to be done, Upton came into the home and announced that his crews were finally finished. It was a Friday, and Upton was looking to get the last paycheck.

“He said, ‘If we get the last of the payment now, I could get it cashed and get the rest of the guys paid off,” Shattuck said.

Believing the work was done, she paid him without inspecting the work. With the local landfill closed that day, Upton took a load of debris home with him and promised to return to finish the cleanup the next day.

“I wrote out the check and he was gone. We never seen or heard from him,” Shattuck said.

When she and her husband went outside, they saw not only the debris, but also the shoddy and unfinished roof job.

After repeated calls and messages on Facebook, the Shattucks turned to Target 8. Denise Shattuck also spoke with the Ionia County building inspector, who confirmed that Upton never pulled permits for the work and didn’t build the roof to code.

“According to the building inspector, nothing is done correctly,” Denise Shattuck said.

The supports Upton and his crew installed are too far apart and portions of the roof are already starting to sag. As for the shed, it was never done.

Making matters worse, the crews did the interior work before pulling off the old roof. The new drywall was damaged when it rained and new leaks popped up during the project. The water ruined the Shattucks’ new bed and then dripped on them as they slept after moving into the living room.

Upton claims his business, which is based in Potterville, has been running for more than 20 years. That’s impressive, since he is only 24 years old.

It turns out the company was originally owned by his father, who did fencing. It was Dennis Upton who took over the business two years ago and expanded into roofing and other remodeling work – often with poor results.

Target 8 made repeated attempts to reach Upton, but he doesn’t want to be found. That may be because there is a warrant out for his arrest in Eaton County for failing to appear in court.

Failing to appear is a common theme for Upton. Court records show he has a history of not showing up to probation appointments, counseling and court hearings. Former customers tell a similar story.

A Lansing family told Target 8 they hired Upton to replace an old fence. He took their money and tore down the old fence. However, he never came back to put a new fence up.

“I never should have given him that last amount,” said Lisa Perez of Lansing, who says she is also a victim of Upton.

Upton was one of several companies that came to bid on a remodeling job at her home. While there, he offered to install some landscaping bricks in the backyard.

“It should have been a bad sign to me that he didn’t have a measuring tape when he was doing an entire bid for the inside of our house. But I figured, what can he screw up on bricks? And he did,” Perez said.

Upton’s first trip to get the landscaping bricks came up short.

“The first time I sent him to buy bricks, he went and got one row of these, him and his person he worked with, and they were totally off and he said, ‘We need more,’” Perez said.

Perez gave him money to go buy more bricks, but he still came up short. She said she did the math with him and gave him $300 to buy the rest of the bricks needed, but Upton took the money and never came back.

“When I couldn’t reach him on Facebook, I couldn’t get an answer back on the phone, I knew that I’d been taken,” Perez said.

She told Target 8 she feels lucky she didn’t lose more and wants to warn others.

“They’ve got this site up there and you think that maybe they’ve got references. Check the references,” Perez said. “I feel for the people that are losing money to this gentleman. He needs to pay some of these people back. I’d like to be paid back.”

The Ionia County building inspector filed a complaint with the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department, which investigated and recently sent the case to the Ionia County prosecutor for possible charges against Upton.

If convicted, Upton could be ordered to repay the Shattucks. However, his legal troubles include failing to pay court-ordered fines and fees in Eaton County from offenses dating back to 2014 – so it seems unlikely the Shattucks will see any money anytime soon.

Upton’s contract includes a warranty. The agreement says, “in the event that something happens to the new roof we are installing that could have been prevented during construction Upton’s Quality Construction will repair or re-install what is necessary to fix the problem that could occur at new cost.”

However, Upton won’t return any calls to make good on the agreement.

The Shattucks’ yard is still a mess and the roof desperately needs to be repaired. Recent estimates put the cost at about $20,000.

“We got to hire an attorney now. It’s the only way we can go back on his liability insurance. So we have to do that as well and it’s out of our pocket,” Denise Shattuck said.

They have still not found a lawyer to help them with their claim.

A fund has been set up online to help the Shattucks raise the money for repairs.

Experts say there are some critical steps you need to take if you plan to hire a contractor:

  • Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.
  • Before you hire someone talk to prior customers who’ve used them for jobs like yours.
  • Check online to make sure they – and any subcontractors they use – are licensed and insured.
  • Call the local building department and make sure they’ve pulled the proper permits.
  • Sign a contract.