From missing doorknobs to missing and unfinished floor transitions between rooms, Brenda Lashley told FOX 8, the contractor who rebuilt her Katrina-damaged home in the Seventh Ward left the job unfinished.
She showed us doors that didn't have holes or doorknobs. Lashley also pointed out areas where the baseboard was missing and shoe molding that was not secure throughout the home.
"In the bathroom, we have these holes he was supposed to come back and plug up," said Lashley.
On top of those issues, almost every window in the home is missing a sill. These are finishing touches that Scott Morse with the Homebuilders Association of Greater New Orleans says would cost about $10,000 to complete.
"You can look up on the state's website... are they licensed? Are they not? If they're not, that should be a shining example right there," said Morse.
The FOX 8 Defenders checked with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors -- the company Lashley hired, AA Contracting Services, LLC., is licensed but for commercial work, not residential.
A state board spokesperson told us a commercial contractor can do home improvements up to $75,000, but Kara Kearney said, "For any job higher, they would have to hold a residential building contractor license."
The contract for Lashley's house called for constructing a brand-new second story on top of the existing single-story brick home that flooded. It was estimated to cost about $137,500, which would require AA Contracting Services to hold a residential license. The state board tells FOX 8 Aaron Anderson of AA Contracting Services has "never had a residential license."
While the initial contract estimate was $137,500, the checks add up to much more -- around $200,000 between 2007 and 2009.
The contract was signed in 2008 with the first big check for $50,000 in May of 2008. Lashley says, when Hurricane Gustav hit that year in September, work at her home stopped.
"He said that actually Baton Rouge was hit very hard by, you know, Gustav, and that he contracted some jobs in Baton Rouge, and I said.. Well you just can't abandon our job," explained Lashley.
She says Anderson didn't return until seven months later in April 2009, and when they did return she says Anderson's wife asked for more money. "She said materials have gone up... So we need an extra $25,000 to complete the job," said Lashley. "This is the way it was set up... Aaron (Anderson) was responsible for... he contracted the job. He was responsible for getting the people to come in... the floors, the electrician, the plumber, but if you had any questions... you had any money to give to them... you gave it to Candice Bates Anderson," said Lashley.
Candice Bates Anderson is Aaron Anderson's wife and also an Orleans Juvenile Court judge. She was elected in 2010 after the Lashley's say AA Contracting Services left their house unfinished. "Any money that you had to give and they said they needed, you gave it to Candice. She was at her home, she was not a judge at the time," explained Lashley.
The Lashleys say when work on their home restarted in April 2009, the Anderson's gave them a new "Final Trim" contract for $25,000 which spelled out tasks, including doorknobs, baseboards and shoe molding, and stated that would "complete the renovation." Yet Lashley says nearly three years later, she's still living without those finishing touches.
Lashley says she and her husband used Road Home money, insurance and their savings to pay for the work and have an opportunity to get reimbursed through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, possibly for thousands of dollars. However, their HMGP application shows they were missing documents which they needed from Anderson in order to get reimbursed, specifically a "cost breakdown for AA Contracting Services, LLC."
"It's pretty suspicious, isn't it? Why are you not providing the breakdown? I mean, what did you do with the $25,000? How much material did you actually buy to do this job? Where did this money go? You didn't finish the job, so where is it?," asked Lashley.
In 2011, the State Licensing Board for Contractors found the company guilty of violating rules regarding record keeping. The board fined the LLC and placed it on supervised probation for six months until records were provided. However, FOX 8 obtained the documents Anderson turned over to the state board and they only contained a partial cost breakdown.
The Home Builders Association's Scott Morse says normal practice for record keeping is seven years. "You always have the numbers.. always, indefinitely... you're required to have it at least for seven years for auditing purposes or internal revenue issues that you may have," said Morse.
In addition to the cost breakdown, the Lashleys question whether their home is free of mold. The contract calls for a certificate stating that, but the Lashley's say they have yet to receive one. "It's kind of like the Chinese drywall everybody was worried about well when I go to sell you have to tell people it had it... and it's gone... it's been remediated... someone has to sign off on it," said Morse.
After the FOX 8 Defenders started asking the Anderson's questions, the Lashleys received a letter in the mail with no return address, post-marked on Saturday, February 9, 2013. It's a copy of a letter dated July 2012 from Aaron Anderson to HMGP, with a cost breakdown based on memory. The total adds up to $208,000 and includes trim and knobs.
Aaron Anderson told FOX 8 by phone that he gave the Lashleys their entire file and that the job is 100 percent complete and off his books. When we asked for the breakdown of costs, he said he had nothing further to say but told FOX 8 that, if we wanted to talk to his wife, he gave us his permission.