Clients say Tri-Cities contracting company abandons projects after receiving thousands of dollars

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A News Channel 11 investigation revealed a Johnson City company is being accused by customers of taking thousands of dollars​ for home renovations that were never completed.

News Channel 11 found out more than a dozen complaints have been filed against Wood Construction and Remodeling, LLC with both the Tennessee and North Carolina Attorneys General offices.

Contracts show customers of Wood Construction and Remodeling were often asked to pay 40% down at the beginning of their projects. It also states in the contract that all money paid is non-refundable. Customers who spoke with News Channel 11 are now asking ‘what happens next’ as their projects have sat in limbo for months.

At least 22 customers say their experience with the company has been unfinished work, thousands of dollars down the drain and empty promises.

“It’s a trainwreck for us,” said customer Roseanna Hallman.

“None of the excuses really made that much sense,” said Jeff Hallman.

“They have either started projects and left them unfinished or they never showed up. It’s repetitive, it’s the same story over and over and over,” Leah Bailiff, another customer, said.

The Johnson City-based company Wood Construction and Remodeling, LLC has an active contractor’s license in Tennessee, filed in 2019 by the company’s owner, Leighton “Joe” Wood.

The company now has an “F” rating on the Better Business Bureau website.

At last check, 15 consumer complaints have been filed in 2021 with the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, along with four to the North Carolina Attorney General.

“We’ve paid $30,500,” Jeff Hallman said. “And they have done absolutely no work.”

The Hallmans live in Gray, Tennessee and moved to the area from Virginia knowing they would have to remodel their new home.

“We needed doorways widened for a wheelchair. Well, we can’t do that now,” Roseanna Hallman said. “We can’t afford a lot of the things that we needed to age in place. And Wood took that from us.

“I don’t know any working person who could take a $30,000 hit and not take ten years to recover from it.”

The Hallmans say after signing their contract with Wood Construction in February, no demolition was ever started on the front-to-back renovation of their home.

“Eventually, it became clear that they had no intention of doing any work at all,” Jeff Hallman said.

Inside the Hallman home.

Now out even more money, the Hallmans have hired another company to come in and start the job.

“I theorized immediately that probably we weren’t the only couple that had lost money to Wood Construction,” Roseanna Hallman said.

News Channel 11 has identified customers who say they have had similar issues with Wood Construction from the Nashville area of middle Tennessee, to Knoxville, to all across the Tri-Cities region and even into North Carolina.

A Google search for the company’s website will tell you the “Business is Closed.”

But a new website, “Custom Homes by Wood,” now exists in its place.

Customer Leah Bailiff in Rogersville, Tennessee says to her, seeing the original website being taken down while she was under contract was one of the first red flags.

“We gave them $12,500 initially,” Bailiff said.

A Wood Construction crew demolished her deck in August, and she says they never returned to finish the job. They were contracted to replace her deck and build a roof to cover it.

“So our back patio door goes out to nothing,” Bailiff said.

Like the Hallmans, Bailiff says her project should have already been completed by now and that the issues started soon after signing her contract in May.

“No communication,” Bailiff said. “Unable to get ahold of anyone, and when we did, we were put off week-to-week about what was going to happen, but it never did essentially.”

Bailiff says she wants to know where her money went.

“My goal is to just stop him from doing this to anybody else,” Bailiff said.

The company’s Johnson City headquarters is now locked up with a “for sale” sign.

Dean Weaver, the most recent acting CEO of the company, resigned last week, but says he only worked there for a month. He told News Channel 11 over the phone the major problems can be attributed to the company selling more projects than they were equipped to handle.

He said he was put in the CEO role after serving in customer service for a short time when former CEO Jeff Sabins stepped down. As acting CEO, he says the height of all frustration was that he could never find out how much money the company had to spend.

Weaver said this made it impossible to budget and schedule projects – and fueled the customer’s problems.

He says the company should have stopped selling projects much sooner and focused on resolving issues.

“We’ve spent $43,000 with Wood, said Kristen Holzer. “There is maybe $6,000 worth of work out there.” The Holzers live in Johnson City and say they were also mortified with what was left on their property.

Their contract for a home addition and new roof was signed in March.

They say they told the company upfront they needed the project done by the end of August because they had a baby on the way. Now, the baby is born, and work still has yet to near completion.

“Five months later, they came out and they broke ground with the machines, untrained laborers,” Holzer said. “They immediately hit the septic line coming out of the house.”

Ever since, Holzer describes their situation as a ‘nightmare.’

She says the footers they laid are already cracking and have to be replaced, and now they are out another $7,000 hiring a different company to come and fix their septic system this week.

“As soon as we stepped into the basement, we stepped into water,” Holzer said. “We lost baby clothes, so much baby clothes in the basement. Just from where the sewage water had been sitting there for days.”

The families News Channel 11 spoke with said when they would reach out and ask the company for answers, if they got a response, company representatives cited a clause in the contract that says they could delay projects due to many circumstances, including an ‘act of God.’ Customers said in their correspondence with representatives from Wood Construction, employees often attributed this to the COVID-19 pandemic and a labor shortage when explaining why their projects were months behind.

“At the time they signed the contract, COVID had been going for a year already,” Jeff Hallman said. “It’s not like this was something unanticipated that they couldn’t have foreseen.”

The families all want their money back, but they also want to see Wood Construction leaders who are responsible held accountable.

“Hopefully, as a group, we can see something done. To stop what is happening,” Bailiff said.

On Thursday, News Channel 11 received a statement from the company’s owner, Joe Wood, in response to these allegations. The full statement reads:

“We have recently partnered with a large regional construction company in order to immediately address all of our current customers projects. This partnership has immediately and dramatically increased our production capacity.

We have been diligently working through manpower, material and logistics issues and this new partnership solves all three with immediate results.

All of our customers are being contacted individually in order to coordinate continued work on there projects.

Any existing customers with questions are asked to contact customerservice@woodcoremodel.com so that we may address them as soon as possible.”

Joe Wood, owner of Wood Construction and Remodeling

Customers affected have already reached out to News Channel 11 following the airing of this story Thursday – saying they are unhappy with this response. Many say they do not want the company to continue work, they want a refund.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office provided WJHL with a copy of a ‘cessation of unlawful conduct’ letter sent to Joe Wood on October 7. The letter details multiple unlawful actions identified by their office; it can be read here:

State attorney’s office complaints

News Channel 11 has compiled a list of some of the complaints sent to state offices. Below is a listed summary of those complaints, provided by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office:

Jeff Hallman in Gray, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on July 12, 2021
Amount involved: $30,500

Hallman said as of July 12, no work had begun on their home remodeling project after a contract was signed on February 26, 2021. The contract stated work would begin within 30 days and be completed within 90 days. The Hallmans submitted a letter canceling the contract on July 1 and have had correspondence with the company. No refund has been given.

Richard Peebles in Piney Flats, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on July 27, 2021
Amount involved: $48,000

Peebles said that on Nov. 6, 2020 a contract was signed with Wood Construction. At the end of February, Peebles said the foundation was incorrectly laid, and electrical and plumbing work was started in April then abandoned.

Qiong Shi in Nashville, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on July 29, 2021
Amount involved: $14,645.40

Shi wrote in a complaint that a contract was signed with Wood Construction on May 4, 2021 and 40% of the total cost was paid up front the next day. At the end of July, close to the 90-day projected completion date, no work had started. Shi said they never received a response from the office in Johnson City or by email.

Erin Lamb in Antioch, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Aug. 11, 2021
Amount involved: $15,552

Lamb states that 80% of the contract with Wood Construction has been paid, but the work was not done according to what was written out in the contract. According to Lamb, Wood Construction refuses to refund the money and finish the job.

Jacci Bowlby in Bristol, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Aug. 17, 2021
Amount involved: $67,839.60

Bowlby states in the complaint that the payment of $67,839.60 was paid up front on May 11, 2021. As of the date of complaint, no work had reportedly begun. Wood Construction had informed Bowlby that work would begin within six weeks of the contract being signed and would be completed within six to eight weeks. After inquiring about a refund, Bowlby states they have not heard back.

Rami Bell in Nashville, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Aug. 17, 2021
Amount involved: $2,161.82

Bell wrote that orignally a deposit of $1,176.82 was given to Wood Construction for a bathroom remodeling project in April, and no work had begun in July. Bell demanded the deposit be returned but was contacted someone in the company who begged to be allowed to do the work. A mold inspection found that some subflooring needed to be replaced, and Wood Construction classified that as an “add on” that must be paid. Bell paid an additional $985, and the tub and sink were removed. Bell writes that no one ever returned, and he cannot get a reply from anyone at the company.

Kristen Oldham in Nashville, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Aug. 24, 2021
Amount involved: $14,041.60

Oldham said a contract for a bathroom remodeling project was signed on April 27, 2021. Forty percent of the total cost was paid and cashed that day. As of the day of the complaint, no work had been started, and no response has been provided by Wood Construction.

Kristen Holzer in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Aug. 26, 2021
Amount involved: $43,491

According to Holzer’s complaint, a contract was signed for a new roof and home addition on March 15, 2021. Wood Construction informed Holzer that work would start within five weeks then be finished by no more than 90 days later. As of May 25, no work had been started and a project manager said he would get back to them soon. Later in June, the Holzers inquired again, stating the project had to be complete by the end of August, but they did not receive a response. In late July, another inquiry was sent to Wood Construction, and a new project manager and crew started work the next week. Only a small amount of concrete was poured before the crews departed. A city inspector told the Holzers that the work was done improperly and would have to be redone. A new crew came and fixed the issue on Aug. 12, according Holzer. Wood Construction then contacted the Holzers and said a second 25% payment was needed. After more correspondence, no more crews ever arrived at the home to finish the work.

Eddie Clark in Jonesborough, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on September 4, 2021.
Amount involved: $54,908.66

Clark says he signed a contract with Wood Construction on April 6, 2021. After paying 40% of the installment and an additional $20,000, Clark says approximately six days of work were completed. Since the second payment, no work has been completed. He says representatives are not answering phone calls, and he was never notified of a day when the work would resume.

Cynthia Contillo in Asheville, North Carolina.
Complaint submitted on September 10, 2021.
Amount involved: $80,000

Contillo says she hired Wood Construction in February 2021 and was told the project would take 12 weeks to finish. In July, Wood Construction completed two jobs and asked for an additional payment of $32,000. Contillo says since the additional payment, Wood Construction abandoned the job.

Jamie Fontaine in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on September 10, 2021.
Amount involved: $121,979

Fontaine said a contract was signed on August 12, 2020 with Wood Construction. Project work began on Nov. 19, 2020. According to Fontaine, a second phase of the project began after a second payment was made on Dec. 29, 2020. The complete payment of the second phase was made on March 13, 2021. Fontaine says since that time, he was lied to, ignored or actively blocked by Wood representatives. He says some additional work was completed only after threatening legal action, and subcontractors were not being paid. One threatened to name Fontaine in a lawsuit against Wood Construction. He says his home and property are damaged from being a construction site for nearly a year.

Leah Bailiff in Rogersville, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Sept. 15, 2021.
Amount involved: $12,546

Bailiff said a contract was signed on May 25, 2021 with Wood Construction. As of Sept. 8, 2021, Bailiff says work has not started on her project. Wood Construction made limited contact with her. She claims the company website is down with a “business is closed” notice.

Linda Lawson in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Sept. 21, 2021.
Amount involved: $19,000

Lawson said a contract was signed on March 25, 2021 with Wood Construction. Work was supposed to begin on May 17, 2021. Lawson says no work started until early July. After several worker no-shows, work stopped between the end of July and the end of August. Lawson says phone calls went unanswered and she was unable to make contact with Wood Construction since.

Gary Blackie in Franklin, Tennessee.
Complaint submitted on Sept. 23, 2021.
Amount involved: $27,686

Blackie said a contract was signed on May 12, 2021 with Wood Construction to remodel a basement and a bathroom. Demolition and framing started on July 26, 2021. Plumbing was completed on July 29, 2021. Blackie said he paid the next installment of his contract, and the framing was finished by July 31, 2021. The next week, the plumber contacted Blackie and said Wood Construction never paid him. After phone calls to Wood Construction, and the plumber was paid on Aug. 5, 2021. Blackie says since then, no work has been done. Blackie says he eventually learned that the demolition and framing subcontractor was never paid for the initial job.

Sylvester Cash in Durham, North Carolina
Complaint submitted on September 24, 2021.
Amount involved: $47,529

Cash said a contract was signed on Sept. 28, 2020 with Wood Construction. When the complaint was submitted, Cash said Wood Construction has yet to obtain a building permit and has not started any construction. He says they have given excuses for lack of progress and provided false information about the status of projects. In May 2021, Cash said he hired an attorney and Wood Construction agreed on a settlement, but never signed the agreement. Cash says they have stopped all communication.

Anyone with further issues with Wood Construction can contact reporter Ashley Sharp by email at asharp@wjhl.com.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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