A dream renovation costing big money turned into a nightmare for one Berlin woman.
The sagging, mold-splattered garage, incomplete paint job and unfinished electrical work only reveals part of the year-long home renovation disaster for Kathleen Mogielnicki.
The single mother of two teenage girls forked over more than $41,000 to the owner of Dartech Restorations more than a year ago.
A recent tour of the home on Tree Hill Road reveals that much of the work detailed in two signed contracts remains unfinished or was done differently than what the agreements called for.
A tiled front foyer agreed to in the contract instead became a Pergo synthetic wood floor.
“When I asked him why, he said, ‘Oh, I thought it would look nicer,” says Mogielnicki, who has lived in the home for more than four years.
The contract calls for a wall to be knocked out between two bathrooms to make one large master suite, but the Troubleshooters found the wall was never taken out.
Most frustrating for Mogielnicki is that she thought she did everything right prior to hiring the company.
She checked out the company online with the Better Business Bureau and the state Department of Consumer Protection. She got references from friends and signed the two detailed contracts.
“He was very friendly, very professional,” says Mogielnicki. “I didn’t see any red flags that would make me think, "This isn’t gonna work out.'"
The Troubleshooters reached out to the owner of Dartech Restorations, Darius Licznerski, several times. However, after several phone calls and visits to his home he has yet to give a statement.
A company response to the homeowner's complaint on the Better Business Bureau website says they attempted to reach out to Mogielnicki, but she canceled the appointment. Mogielnicki refutes that claim.
The company's response also says it did everything according to the contracts, which goes against what our cameras and a contractor with more than 40 years experience saw firsthand.
Tim Kennedy, owner of Kennedy’s Plumbing and Heating in Hartford, said the cost of fixing what Dartech did wrong could reach an additional $40,000.
A town hall search shows no permits were obtained for the electrical or plumbing work. The great unknown, said Kennedy, is what they’ll find when they get a look behind the walls and ceiling.
The contractor points out that while “99 percent” of the time contractors apply for a permit with the town, it is ultimately the responsibility of the homeowner.
Kennedy said it’s rare that he gets calls like the one from Mogielnicki, but when he does it's usually because contractors accept jobs that are bigger than they can handle.
“Remodeling is the only license you can get where there is no schooling. No testing. Simply put, in a matter of six-to-10 minutes you can probably go in and get a license to do remodeling work," Kennedy said.
William Rubenstein, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, said year after year the largest number of complaints they get are about home contractors.
According to Rubenstein, Mogielnicki did nearly everything right prior to hiring Dartech Restorations, but she went wrong by paying for everything upfront and failing to include expected start and end dates on the contracts.
“The incentive should always be that the contractor needs to get more money from you than you need to get work from the contractor,” says Rubenstein. “That’s how homeowners protect themselves."
Rubenstein added that if homeowners find themselves in a situation where they feel wronged, the first step is to submit a complaint to the state.
The next step is to pursue a judgment against the contractor in civil court.
“The state has a guaranty fund which serves as a last resort backup where we will pay up to $15,000 on a judgment for each contract to the consumer," Rubenstein said, "and then we will step into the shoes of the consumer and collect that from the contractor.”
So now, a year later, with all her extra money tied up in an incomplete renovation, Mogielnicki is left only to ask how this could have happened.
“He saw me as an easy target and I got played," she said. "Caveat emptor, you know, buyer beware."