ARLINGTON, TX (CBSDFW.COM) – After CBS 11, more North Texas homeowners are coming forward with stories of lost payments and unfinished jobs.
RJ Construction blames an ongoing legal battle with the Arlington Independent School District for the bankruptcy filing, but former clients say they are the real victims.
“The best scenario when I started getting things done was to get my money back, but now after all the stories I’ve heard, that doesn’t really matter,” said Josh Usry of Arlington. “The best scenario is that the community comes together to drive this out. It’s not OK. This is Arlington. We should not put up with this kind of fraud.”
Usry says he and his wife signed a deal with RJ Construction in January to renovate their home and put down $30,000.
“Work started in May but only lasted about two days,” he said. “After two days of demo – after our entire kitchen was ripped apart – they found a lot of problems.”
Something felt wrong and Usry worried the company wasn’t up for the job or he was being scammed. He tried to stop the project and get some of her bail back.
According to Usry, he eventually had to hire a lawyer, who sent a formal notice to RJ Construction.
The company filed for bankruptcy the next day.
“We’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars and the stress of upheaval has turned our lives upside down for absolutely nothing,” Usry said. “We’ve been with Airbnbs since May and thought they were doing a good job. We’re still on Airbnbs.”
Since then, dozens of other clients have also come forward, saying they also have thousands for unfinished work.
“If you have a story and you are a victim of it, please speak up,” he said.
At the time he hired RJ Construction on a friend’s recommendation, Usry’s research turned up no red flags. He and other customers are sharing their experiences in hopes of preventing the company from doing business again.
“We were really hurt by all of this,” he said.
The Better Business Bureau says research and talking to references is key to finding a trustworthy contractor.
“One of the things we would recommend if you’re doing this research is get three different bids,” said Amy Rasor, BBB’s Fort Worth regional director. “By getting three bids, you can find out if they somehow agree with each other.”
Other BBB recommendations:
- Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never start work without a written and signed contract. Don’t be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing.
- Check license and insurance. Always make sure the company you choose has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your area.
- Confirm building permit. Your contractor must have the proper permits before you begin your project.
- Inquire about a deposit waiver. A lien waiver in the United States is a statement by your contractor stating that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Be mindful of future service issues. Make sure you are clear about your warranty coverage and how to handle service issues.
- Agree on a payment plan. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so that your final payment is not due until the job is complete and you’ve fully inspected it. Don’t pay cash; Make sure your check is made payable to a company and not an individual, or that you’re using a credit card. Payment by credit card provides some recourse if the job is not completed as specified in the contract.
- Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Fully Paid” when the job is complete and your final payment has been made.
- Keep your contract. Retain your contract for future reference or in case questions arise after the work is complete.
RJ Construction owner Robert Jordan said he was forced to file for bankruptcy due to an ongoing legal battle with the Arlington Independent School District over payment for work at Sam Houston High School. The company was shut down after the campus’ pipes burst during the winter storm of February 2021.
Attorney Michael Hammond, representing Jordan, says he understands why clients are frustrated, but Jordan has no fraudulent or criminal intent.
“Robert Jordan is a good man who has tried everything to avoid being put in this position,” Hammond said. “He is determined to do everything in his power to fix this.”
According to Hammond, Jordan had been working to sell the company and thought the work would be done by the next owner. The decision to file for bankruptcy was made at the last minute.
“He will continue to pursue the lawsuit against Arlington ISD, which was the domino that caused this problem,” Hammond said.
In a three-page fact sheet released by AISD, the district dismissed many of its claims and said an insurance adjuster valued RJ Construction’s work at just under $180,000.
In that statement, the District said, “Arlington ISD has never had the desire or motivation to bankrupt RJ Construction. At the same time, Arlington ISD has a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is only spent on services that are actually rendered and documented.”