Taking Action Investigation: Paying Customers of Valley Appliance Find Liens Placed on Homes

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TENNESSEE VALLEY (WHNT) - Dreams of new appliances were dashed when Tennessee Valley consumers coughed up big money and never got their goods.

WHNT News 19 exposed the questionable business practices of Valley Appliance in February 2013.  Since our original Taking Action investigation aired, we have discovered people who received what they paid for are now victims, too.

First, some background.  Owners Peter and Tim Tyrka once operated several Valley Appliance storefronts in Decatur, Athens, and most recently, Huntsville.  But dissatisfied customers tell us the business formed a bad habit of collecting cash and not delivering the goods.

Valley Appliance closed its doors in December of 2012.  WHNT News 19 soon discovered the owners were back in business under a new name and new location: Kitchens By Design on South Memorial Parkway.  Not for long, though.  Days after our initial investigation, that store shut down.

All the while, the complaints against them filtered in by the dozens.

WHNT News 19 was able to help several customers get refunds for appliances they never received.   In this WHNT News 19 Taking Action investigation, the stakes are even higher.

"Here we are, we have worked hard all of our lives, paid for our house -- you think you're in the clear, and all at once this happens," said Margaret Hill.

Margaret and Lloyd Hill recently learned a lien is placed against their home, and they learned about it from us.  The Hills are still in shock.

"Oh no, not us, surely we’re in the clear, but we weren’t, and we went to the courthouse and sure enough we did have a lien against our property," said Margaret.

The hills were our first phone call.  We had six more to make.  The news was the same for everyone.

A sub-contractor out of Peachtree City, Georgia claims to be jilted by Valley Appliance.  Granite and Marble Warehouse says the Tyrkas never paid them for seven installations in Morgan County.

In an email exchange between Valley Appliance and the company, owner Peter Tyrka writes "I am digging out of hole."

And since the Tyrkas weren’t making good on a $15,000 debt, the granite company figured putting out liens was the only way to get paid.

"We had no idea we had a lien on our house," said David Byrd, who was disgusted to hear the news.  However, he didn't hear about it from WHNT News 19.

"You’re qualified, but you are not going to be able to continue until your lien on your house is taken off," said Byrd. "And that’s where we were like 'what lien?'"

The Byrds got the news from a loan officer.  They were trying to refinance their home.  But until they paid $2,132 plus interest from an install back in April of 2011, re-mortgaging or selling their home wasn’t an option.

It didn’t take long for David to realize what was going on.

"Owing many suppliers, obviously, and having many, many people with liens on their homes, that they were totally unaware of it, because they didn’t pay their bills," said Byrd.

Byrd was forced to pay twice for his countertops and his lien was eventually released.  His calls to Valley Appliance were ignored.

Margaret and Lloyd Hill's lien was for $946, but they couldn’t wrap their minds around paying for it, since their receipt shows they had already paid Valley Appliance.

"It must feel strange to know you had lien on your home for well over a year," WHNT News 19 asked them.

"And nobody notified [us]," said Lloyd Hill.

WHNT News 19 decided to take action and we uncovered yet another twist.  We spoke with the Morgan County Probate office and an attorney and discovered these liens weren’t properly filed.  That’s why the homeowners weren’t notified.

In fact, the liens expired after six months, but they were still showing up on these homeowners’ credit reports and damaging their financial reputations.  The source of their problems all leads back to Valley Appliance.

"I just can’t see how anybody could do that, you know take somebody’s money and do something else with it," said Margaret Hill.

"Valley Appliance owners to be taken to court," said David Byrd.  "Justice."

The granite company in Peachtree City, Georgia is also a victim here because of the money they are out from botched Valley Appliance deals.

We explained to them their liens weren’t valid, and that our goal is to take action for the consumers here in the Tennessee Valley.   The company is still considering its next steps.

The Huntsville Police Department has compiled several cases against the former Valley Appliance owners and handed that over the Madison County District Attorney’s office.  The D.A. is now working towards a grand jury indictment.

WHNT News 19 Extra: What is a lien, and how do you find out if you have one placed on your property?  Here's more information.

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