Homeowner's nightmare: When a repair-remodel project goes bad

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SILVER SPRINGS, Nev. (KOLO) - A manufactured home sitting on a lot in Silver Springs, an hour's drive from a job in Reno, may seem like an unlikely answer to anyone's dreams, but in fact it had much to offer Alex Jenkins.

For one thing it was far enough from Reno's overheated real estate market to be affordable.

"Away from the city. My son and I are outdoorsy people. We could go to Lahontan. We could have dogs," says Jenkins. "We were excited about it."

But it needed work, so this single mother went looking for a contractor. And she thought she'd found the right person in Dan Kapetan of Great Basin Home Improvement. She checked him out. No red flags.

"Not at all. I didn't see any bad reviews on him and I looked."

And he seemed competent?

"Absolutely."

She believed when they started she needed foundation work to convert the mobile home as personal property to real property. It turned out that work had already been done, but there was much else needed inside and out.

Months later some work remains undone; some, like dead bugs left and painted over in a window sill, she says has been corrected by herself and friends.

Other problems are still quite visible. A front porch is left partially stained and lacked, she says, proper support. Inside, sheet rock was installed over the electrical outlet for her washing machine and drier.

"He drywalled the whole thing. I had to have someone come out and redo it."

That seems a pretty boneheaded thing to do. Kapetan agrees and says he's talked with his employee about the accusation.

"And he said he didn't do it and he has pictures."

But perhaps most disturbing--a water heater which she says had been converted and hooked up to propane. Arriving home she was excited to have hot water. It wouldn't light. She called a friend, a journeyman plumber, who found the connection had been cross-threaded. It was leaking propane into the home.

"We were going to finish it," explains Kapetan, "but an hour later I get a text from Miss Jenkins and she doesn't want us on the property. No explanation."

For the record we've talked with the plumber. He confirms her account.

Kapetan denies his people hooked up the propane and says in any case they would have had it inspected before clearing it for use. Of course by then the two weren't talking.

"When I found out he was doing work on the property without permits I told him 'Don't come back,' says Jenkins. "Absolutely not. With the water heater and all of the stuff that he did was horribly wrong and had to be redone. Don't come back."

Kapetan explains the problems as work he was never allowed to complete or--as he says their contract stipulated--to correct.

"We weren't allowed in this case to finish them nor were we allowed to talk with the customer and give any response."

He says she still owes him $2600 and has filed a lien against her. She says she plans to take him to court. The state Manufactured Housing Division will only say her complaint is under investigation.

Jenkins says it's been a learning experience. She still believes she was careful in her search and, as the daughter of a contractor, was better equipped to make the right decisions than most.

"When I looked him up it said he was 'active'. Nowhere does it link up where he's had multiple licenses that he's either allowed to expire or that have been revoked because they're in different cities, under different business names. I think that's something that the contractor's board (actually the Manufactured Housing Division) needs to address."

And she worries others with fewer resources are even more vulnerable.

It's not easy. If you look for Yelp reviews, for instance, you will find glowing responses concerning Kapetan's company and you'll find scathing accounts. Little in between.

One thing Alex Jenkins admits she could have done was to ask for references from his most recent customers.

We asked him for any advice to anyone dealing with a contractor.

"Read the contract."

He also says he's willing, even at this point, to reach some accommodation with her. That seems unlikely, but we'll let you know.