Couple claims contractor inflated charges then placed lien on home destroyed by fire

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — Nearly a year after a devastating fire, a couple from Rockledge claims a restoration contractor is holding their burned-out home hostage.

They say the company grossly inflated demolition charges, then filed a lien against their home to collect.

“Let’s check out your house here, Jonie,” Action 9′s Todd Ulrich said as he and Jonie Cherry stepped into her burned-out home. An electrical fire gutted the house last April.

“It’s all just destroyed,” Cherry said.

She said she feels betrayed by the restoration contractor who was supposed to rebuild her home.

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“It’s almost a year. I haven’t been home. I just spend time in an apartment, (I’ve) never lived in an apartment in my life,” Cherry said.

Cherry and her husband were fully insured, and State Farm processed their claim within weeks.

They hired Brevard Restoration Group to restore their home, but the Cherrys say that after the company handled the initial demolition, the company owner Travis Gier walked off the job.

“I didn’t have any explanation why. He didn’t tell my why, he just left.” Cherry said he stopped returning calls but did bill them $74,000 for demolition.

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The insurance settlement included just $10,000 for that phase.

According to Cherry, another contractor estimated the cost at $8,000. “He said you would be a fool to pay him $74,000 for what has been done in this house.”

Then, Brevard Restoration Group filed a lien against Cherry’s home for $74,000. In the worst-case scenario, the company could try to foreclose on the home to collect the lien amount.

Cherry said other contractors won’t finish rebuilding her house until the lien is removed. She hired an attorney.

“Is he holding your house hostage?” Ulrich asked Cherry, referring to the restoration company’s owner.

“That’s what it looks like to me,” Cherry replied.

According to the family, their attorney just offered to pay Brevard Restoration Group $25,000 for the demolition work that’s been done.

Cherry said the company has not replied to that offer.

Ulrich tried to track down Brevard Restoration Group. It’s business address had no company signs and there wasn’t anyone there. Ulrich also tried to find Gier at his home and called his company’s attorney but has not received a response.

Insurance expert Tom Cotton says restoration companies offer a quick response within hours of a loss but advises homeowners to get a written estimate as soon as possible.

“It will be very simple for them to solve the immediate problem, but do not let them proceed with doing any work until the insurance company has an opportunity to examine the loss,” Cotton said.

The Cherrys say they’ll pay a fair price for the demolition so they can afford putting their home back together.

“But we will rebuild because God is with us,” Cherry said.

Consumers facing restoration company disputes can send a complaint to Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation against the contractor’s license.

The Cherrys said they will be doing just that.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.