Taking Action: Unlicensed contractor leaves a trail of unfinished work

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Alabama has a problem with unlicensed and unscrupulous contractors. It's one of the more common complaints we hear in the newsroom, home repair ripoffs. WHNT News 19 is Taking Action to help a local family deal with their contractor and exposed the damage he's left behind.

Typically, your home will be your largest single investment.  Stormi Steele and her husband, Courtney, hired a contractor to repair some water damage in their home. But now, the couple says their home is in worse shape than it was before.

It was the commode in this upstairs bathroom that malfunctioned back in April of this year. Water flowed out into the hall and into an adjoining room. It seeped through the floor and caused water damage in a number of areas. They talked to several contractors, and then they met Tony Hill.

“He was like, I know exactly what you're going through and this is how this is going to go, this is how this goes, just send me this and I’ll get it squared away for you and I was like, well thank you because we don't know what we're doing so thank you so much,” Stormi explained.

Stormi says Hill presented himself as a licensed contractor. But an affidavit WHNT News 19 obtained from the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board confirms Hill does not have and has never had a contractor's license.

“And it wasn't until after I kept getting the runaround and all my red flags went up and I’m like something's not right about him. He got money, and he hasn't done anything,” Stormi says.

She says he did put some tile down in the bathroom, and she showed us some of his alleged work. The tiles are uneven and the corners of some of them stick up.

“The moment he got our money, everything changed. Like, nah I didn't say that or nah, you can't get that. You know, I’m like no, that's right here though, you haven't done anything,” Stormi told us.

Well, he did pull up two rooms of carpet where there was no damage and said he was doing them a favor. And this is how those rooms look today.

Hill took $10,000 in insurance money from the couple to do a whole list of things. But all he did was put some tile in the bathroom, rip up some carpet, and hire someone else to replace some sheetrock in a small area above the living room.

Hill couldn't speak with us. He's in the Lawrence County Jail charged with home repair fraud. Stormi and her husband say they plan to file a formal complaint with the Home Builders Licensure Board in Montgomery. They're also planning to speak with investigators at the Madison County District Attorney's Office.

If Hill’s name is familiar to you it's because this isn't the first time our paths have crossed. He also did some work on a doublewide mobile home in Lawrence County. A legally blind woman gave him $20,000 to remodel her place. And you'll just have to see it for yourself to understand the mess she's been left with.

Kimberly Clemons, her daughter and another young woman live in one room. Her daughter's boyfriend sleeps in an unfinished room because he's worried about the women staying there alone. Their kitchen, dining room, and their only closet, a spare bedroom, all look more like a construction zone.

It actually looks a little better than it did the last time we were there. Her kids have been trying to finish the remodeling job she that hired Tony Hill to do last year.

“It's coming along, it's coming along. It's taking a little bit but it's coming along,” Kimberly explains while sitting on lumber stacked on her front porch. There is no where else to sit.

They've almost finished the kitchen floor after taking up the decking she says Hill and his crew nailed onto rotten support beams. They'll put more wood down in a few days.

She got a good deal on some sheetrock and new doors. It's all stored inside so thieves won't be tempted to take it. There wouldn't be money available to replace it.

“What's killing us is food wise. It's hard to go eat out every time you turn around,” Kimberly explains.

Kimberly says she hired Hill last October to remodel and update the old trailer. She and her late husband rebuilt it after a fire a few decades ago and they lived in it for over 20 years. She says she paid hill $20,000 in cash. Later she says he told her there was so much hidden damage he couldn't finish the job for that.

So this is what she's left with. In a week or so, when the kitchen linoleum goes down, she's going to have them bring her stove in, so at least she can cook.

“Good old pinto beans and cornbread, fried potatoes and fried squash, all the good stuff."

It was at our urging that Mrs. Clemons contacted the District Attorney's Office in Moulton. They sent an investigator out and then charged Hill with home repair fraud.  He's also being held on a warrant stemming from a similar case in Lawrence County, dating back to 2015, in which he was ordered to pay restitution, but failed to do so.