Construction company not living up to its name
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 4:18PM
Scott Spindler (left) and Renaldi Allen from A & K Hauling in Merrillville remove construction material for a pergola from the backyard of a home in Gary, Ind. Friday January 11, 2013. Homeowner Beverly Hunter hired Reliable Home Improvements in June 2011 to build the pergola, re-side her home and other improvements, but the company did the work poorly and left the failed pergola mess in her yard. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 20, 2013 6:04AM
Beverly Hunter thought when she hired Reliable Home Improvements in 2011, she would get improved warmth in her Gary house and a pergola to enjoy while outside.
Instead she was left with a pile of lumber in her yard and a debt of $9,368 to Wells Fargo Bank, despite the fact Reliable never completed its job.
Other customers say they were left in a similar situation and now are dealing with homes in need of more repair than before the company started.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against Reliable and its owners, Eric Norwood and Joe Callahan, claiming the firm acted as a credit company when it helped its clients apply for loans from various banks to pay for work that was never finished. Neither Callahan nor Norwood could be reached for comment.
Hunter said she first discovered Reliable, which was based in Lake Station but appears to be closed, from a pamphlet the company sent out in June 2011. Hunter had recently had a stroke and wanted a pergola so she could have somewhere to sit outside. Her home also had no insulation, so she wanted new siding to help protect against the cold. Hunter called the number on the pamphlet and was told Reliable was renovating homes as part of a government program.
Men did come out to replace her siding and build a pergola, but the work did not come close to what Hunter wanted, she said. Instead of anchoring the pergola’s support beams in concrete, workers let the concrete set and then built the pergola on top of it.
“It wasn’t anchored,” she said. “You could go out there and shake it.”
Hunter went first to the Gary Planning Board for help, and Reliable agreed to come back and fix the pergola. When they couldn’t fix it, Hunter had them take it down, as she didn’t trust them to build a new one. Reliable did take it down but left all the lumber in her yard, where it sat until recently. Hunter’s insurance company told her she would lose her homeowner’s coverage if the lumber wasn’t taken away because the company considered it a hazard. Hunter had to hire A&K Hauling of Merrillville to take it away.
The problems didn’t end there. Hunter said Wells Fargo paid Reliable for the work, though she never signed a letter of completion, and now the bank wants her to pay up.
“It’s been a headache,” she said.
Another victim named in the lawsuit said she had a similar experience. Chicago resident Victoria Hardison now berates herself for letting door-to-door salesmen representing Reliable into her house.
“Why would I do that?” she said. “...I let that boy talk me into signing a contract.”
Hardison said she had wanted insulation work done in her attic to cover her old pipes.
“They did some of the work, but they didn’t finish the attic,” she said.
Reliable helped her get financing for the work, even though she said she didn’t want financing and preferred to pay outright. She paid $7,142 for work that was never completed, according to the lawsuit.
Lake Station resident Elsie Batson is not listed in the state’s lawsuit but filed her own suit against Reliable in May when she couldn’t reach Callahan to fix poor work his company did while installing siding.
“They left gaps and the siding was popping loose,” she said. “It just was an awful job.”
Batson said she dismissed the lawsuit when Reliable finally came out to fix it, although she still wasn’t happy with the quality.
“I’m sure glad somebody decided to go after them,” she said.