PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A heating and cooling contractor who installed a system for a Virginia Beach couple that has never really worked properly is back in the news. This time it’s kitchen remodeling, but once again it involves very upset customers who contacted 10 On Your Side.
A Portsmouth couple, John Walls and Jessica Matney, paid HCEC Group and owner Antwain Chatman $5,000 in February to renovate their kitchen. They live in the ranch home with their roommate Noah Heaton.
“We’ve had to contract out some of the work to other people, and had to do the floors and the painting ourself,” Matney said.
They say HCEC workers showed up only three times, and not at all since April, and did a total of about seven hours of tear out work.
“They were supposed to start with the demolition, and then continue with the renovation, adding in the cabinets and installing our new appliances,” Heaton said.
But for Matney, her family and their roommate, the unfinished job meant more than inconvenience. For her one-year-old son Grayson, it’s meant danger.
“They left tack strips out on the floor and there were staples, so we had to go and pull out each individual staple in order for our son not to step on them. His feet would bleed, he had little stabs in them, he’d get them stuck in there and we’d have to pull them out. Some of the tacks are rusted and so we had to worry about tetanus shots.”
For months they went without a stove, so they had to rely on a grill or the microwave.
“That’s not the diet I want my one year old child on because microwave food is not good for you,” Matney said.
Heaton says they’ve made more than 50 calls over several months, and at one point, an HCEC subcontractor got cold feet when he showed up.
“When we got to the door he’s backing out leaving. So we contacted him and his excuse that day was his girlfriend was having a panic attack.”
It’s the same company we’ve reported on involving a Virginia Beach couple, Joe and Toby Rissin. They paid HCEC and Chatman $10,000 for an HVAC system that hasn’t worked properly since it was installed eleven months ago. When Matney and Heaton saw those stories, they realized they were dealing with the same company.
“It sucks for everyone that it’s happening to. It’s our livelihoods that they’re messing with,” said Matney.
We asked the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation if HCEC’s license for HVAC enabled the company to do kitchen remodeling. DPOR Acting Director Mary Broz-Vaughn gave us this response:
“The HVA classification does not cover kitchen remodeling. Depending on the precise scope of the project, kitchen remodeling work would require a specialty such as home improvement contracting (HIC) or a combination of finish carpentry contracting (FIN), flooring and floor covering contracting (FLR), painting and wallcovering contracting (PTC), or tile, marble, ceramic etc (TMC).
“I also want to point out that (HCEC) holds a Class C license, which is limited to projects valued at up to $10,000. From what you describe, it sounds like the contractor may be working outside of class (kitchen remodels can be very expensive!) and outside of classification/specialty–both of which can constitute regulatory violations.”
Chatman says the Portsmouth customer canceled the contract, but the customer says that never happened. Chatman now says he has taken out a business loan and will refund their money less any work already completed, and the Virginia Beach couple’s money, by the end of this month. But Chatman had previously said he’d remove the Virginia Beach equipment and make that refund by the end of this week.
To look up your local contractor before having work done to your house visit: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/ .