Harriman couple frustrated by unfinished home remodel

HARRIMAN, Tenn. (WATE) - A couple in Harriman is tired of waiting for a contractor to finish his work of remodeling their home. They've been waiting for five months. Recently, workers have been showing up once a week for an hour or two.

Ken and Vanessa Smith handed over a big down payment back in May and expected to be living in their remodeled home by now. Late summer was the original move-in date, but the job isn't done and the prospect of completing it anytime soon is anyone's guess.

Ken Smith's place in Harriman is a work in progress. Replacing the old siding he expected to be removed by now hasn't started. There has been no effort either in replacing the old worn-out back porch. And remodeling the front porch, where Ken Smith and his wife expected to relax, has never gotten underway.

The remodeling contract was signed in late May. Half of the $29,000 deal was paid upfront. Construction inside started in August. The place was gutted, new walls and sheet rock were put up, and some electrical work began, but by early September most of the interior work stopped. By that time the contractor, had pocketed close to $20,000, two thirds of the deal.

"The only thing he really done was the roof - that's not really completed - and put the sheet rock in. And put a cover over the old remaining floors, that's it," said Vanessa Smith.

"Now we can't get a hold of him, can't get him down here. When he gets his people here, they work one day a week," said Ken Smith.

The contractor the couple hired is Tim Russell of Philadelphia, Tenn. Ken Smith said he and his wife had saved up for the remodeling and had the money to pay Russell, but wanted to see progress.

"Yes, he said I'm not living up to up to my contract," said Ken Smith.

On September 21, Russell wrote saying the Smiths owed him another draw, but by that time, Ken Smith said workmen were coming out only once a week.

"We didn't give it to him," Ken Smith said. "I said, 'Hey, you ain't done the work.'"

"We bought the appliances that are still sitting at Lowe's. We're waiting for him just to do something," said Vanessa Smith.

On October 12, WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with Russell who said there's a "little dispute" underway. He said, however, the sheet rock will be finished when the electricians return. Then the siding will be put up, he said, and the decks completed.

Russell said they didn't have an expected completion date of the job because of the weather at the time, but no one was working on the home that day, even though the weather was beautiful.

"I'll have it done in the next three weeks," Russell said.

WATE 6 On Your Side returned exactly 21 days from the first conversation with Russell. Ken Smith said only three partial sheets of drywall were put up in that time. In a series of text messages, Russell set up a meeting with the couple, but he didn't show up. Russell then asked the couple for another three weeks to finish up.

"I want my home completed. That's all we've ever asked for is my home to be completed," said Vanessa Smith.

Russell has assured the Smiths he will finish the job. There are several issues to consider. First is that the couple's contract did not include a completion date. Remodeling a home takes time. It's often best to have the date of completion in writing so both the homeowner and contractor on the same page.

It's possible the contractor underestimated the cost of the project, since it was the only bid the couple received. It's best to shop around and have several estimates before beginning a big project.

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