Knoxville woman’s remodeling job left unfinished by unlicensed contractor

Investigations

Nothing is more frustrating than a remodeling job that starts and then stops because the contractor drops out of sight. There can be many different reasons for the contractor’s disappearance. Some are understandable, like illness or injury, while others aren’t as understandable.

In any case, there’s not much excuse for a contractor not returning phone calls.

Suzie Churchill never got her new laundry room built or other work finished at her house. even though she paid her contractor $11,000, half of the total cost upfront.

The contract was signed in early December. 

“He was going to remove the washer and the dryer. He was going to take this cabinet down. Open a doorway from the dining room,” said Churchill. “I would have a laundry room, mud room.”

All the contractor did was put up a partition. Outside, the contractor started remodeling vinyl siding around the house and then quit. Construction of the extended laundry room got underway, then stopped.

“Behind us they dug, dug what I would refer to as my moat.  But it was the ditch for the footers to be poured in eventually,” she said.

Churchill hired a Knoxville company, Nationwide Builders. She said they had worked in her neighborhood before with good recommendations. 

“They showed up in about a month and started working outside,” she said.

Churchill said she had no complaints at first, until she asked about the building permit.

“I found out that he didn’t have a license, and that’s why he could not pick up the building permit,” said Churchill.

The home improvement contractor is Nick Chessher. He’s not licensed with the state.

In mid-January, the city issued a stop work order. In Knoxville, home improvement contractors are required to be licensed.

“They showed up again and started doing more things and thought they could do it without the permit. Apparently, he thought I was just going to give up and let him build it without the permit,” she said.

When she signed the papers in December, Churchill didn’t check whether Nationwide Builders or Nick Chessher were professionally licensed by Tennessee because he said he was. Since she paid half of the $22,500 bill in advance and since the job had just gotten underway, Churchill wants some of her money returned.       

WATE 6 On Your Side found Chessher working on his car.  A truck in his driveway displayed his company logo.

“I really don’t want to talk to you,” he said.

Chessher refused to discuss the situation, but said he would talk to Churchill about it. Chessher did meet with Churchill and her attorney. She says they’re discussing a repayment agreement, but it hasn’t yet been determined. 

Churchill recently hired a new contractor to finish the remodeling project at her home.

Churchill says she’s pleased that Chessher has agreed to return some of her money. Remember, when hiring a contractor in the city of Knoxville, Knox County and some other East Tennessee communities, a home improvement contractor’s license is required for projects that cost between $3,000 and $24,999.

The licensing board suggests you check out the contractor first and don’t hire the first one who comes along. Get a written contract and ask for proof of insurance. Never pay cash and don’t pay more than a third down. Make sure the contractor obtains the local permits for inspections.

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