GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s usually the homeowner who calls Target 8 to report problems with builders. But this time, it was the general contractor himself who tipped us off.
Roger Kingma wanted Target 8 to expose what he called an “epidemic of bad (sub)contractors in Grand Rapids,” by calling out two men he had paid to replace a woman’s roof in Grand Rapids.
“They were supposed to have it done in two days,” said Kingma, who owns Custom Upgrades LLC in Wyoming. “After seven days they walked off the job site, left the house half-exposed. Did not cover it.”
Kingma said the shingles they did manage to install were the wrong ones. When he realized the two men had disappeared and rain was in the forecast, Kingma got the roof tarped off.
But it wasn’t enough to withstand the three plus inches of rain Grand Rapids got on Aug. 28.
“I mean this was all saturated when I came in,” Genaya Whitford told Target 8, pointing to the carpet in her southeast Grand Rapids home.
She returned from a few days out of town to find a rain-soaked interior.
“When I came home you could hear the ‘squish, squish’ as I was walking on it. Everything was soaked,” she said.
From wet carpets to water-stained wood floors, walls and ceilings, Whitford was shocked.
“I walked in the kitchen and there’s a puddle … Opened up my back bedroom back there, and the ceiling done fell in there,” Whitford.
Whitford understands that Kingma blames the subcontractors, but she holds Kingma responsible.
“I took up work with Roger, not with the subcontractors or people under him or whatever,” she said. “I paid Roger, I hired Roger, I paid Custom Upgrades. I mean true enough the other guys may be at fault, but that’s not my issue.”
Target 8 is not identifying the two men Kingma hired at this point because we’ve been unable to find documentation of wrongdoing on their part. Kingma paid the men in cash, failed to have them sign a contract specifically for the roof job, and failed to pull the proper construction permits.
The owner of Custom Upgrades has had trouble finding good help before.
Based on six complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, four within the last year, the BBB told Target 8 that Kingma “sells customers on home renovation projects and then hires subcontractors to take care of the actual work.”
“It’s been reported that (Kingma) … has issues coordinating and following through,” wrote John Masterson, marketing director at the BBB, which has not rated Custom Upgrades.
“If (Kingma) entered into a written contract with a consumer for a specific project, and then hired sub-contractors that wound up doing a poor job, (Kingma) is legally responsible for the work, warranties, and everything else that was agreed upon,” wrote Masterson.
“In some consumer reported instances, it appears Roger did not offer or provide a written contract but instead did everything verbally. Since these details aren’t written out, it often becomes tough to hold people accountable. It devolves into he-said-she-said and causes other issues.”
Kingma told Target 8 that the two men he hired to do Whitford’s roof were already working on another project for him and had been doing a good job previously.
“They asked if I could pay them cash (for the roof job), so I paid them cash,” explained Kingma. “We were building a relationship together and it’s hard to find good contractors in Grand Rapids, so when you find one we try to take care of them as best we can in any way possible.”
Kingma said he called Target 8 in the first place because he wanted to expose what he called “an epidemic of bad (sub)contractors” in Grand Rapids.
“They take down payments and they don’t show up or they don’t do the work or they don’t stand behind their work when the jobs go bad. They’re gone,” said Kingma. “I called Target 8 because I’m hoping this raises awareness for other homeowners as well as contractors like me that we just can’t trust what’s out there.”
Kingma urged homeowners and general contractors to document everything to protect themselves.
When Target 8 contacted one of the subcontractors Kingma identified, he blamed Custom Upgrades for leaving Genaya Whitford’s home exposed to the elements, claiming that city inspectors kicked them off the property because Kingma had not pulled the proper permits.
Kingma acknowledged he did not have the proper permits before the work started, but said he obtained them as soon as the city came calling.
Target 8 confirmed that the city did ticket and fine Custom Upgrades for starting work without a permit. But the city’s spokesperson said its inspectors did not physically go to the property to stop the work taking place.
In the end, Kingma paid to put Whitford up in a hotel for several days while her home dried out, and he did ultimately complete the roof job.
In his response to one of the complaints lodged against his company with the BBB, Kingma pointed out that he stands behind his work.
“We hired a concrete company that completely botched the job,” wrote Kingma in one case. “Sometimes the contractors that I hire do bad work, but I will always fix (it).”
Whitford is now looking for someone who can repair the damage done to her home’s interior. She said she will do more research before she hires a contractor this time.
So far, Whitford said her own insurance has paid for her efforts to remediate the interior damage, including dehumidifiers.
Here are the tips the Better Business Bureau provides on its website:
- Research and gather information. You can search for a contractor’s Business Profile at BBB.org to get free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business.
- Ask for references.
- Ask for multiple quotes.
- Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract.
- Verify license and insurance.
- Confirm building permits.
- Inquire about a lien waiver — a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
- Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it.
- Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card.
- Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
- Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.