ORLANDO, Fla. — A devastating house fire has left a single mom fighting for nine months to get back into her home. She blames the contractor and the contract she signed at her most vulnerable moment.
Lorraine Perry said it was her nightmare come true. “Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would have a fire, and absolutely, the panic is just immense. It’s a lot, it’s a lot to soak in.”
Perry told Action 9 that firefighters were still battling the blaze when she pulled up to her east-Orlando home.
“I remember feeling tense, feeling shocked. I remember trying to have some kind of composure to make sure my kids were okay,” Perry said.
Then, at what Perry described as her darkest moment, and before the smoke cleared, a contractor was at her door.
“At that moment he promised me the sun, moon and stars, and when you’re in that state of shock and devastation, you cling to that one bit of hope,” Perry explained.
She signed a direction of payment contract with Orange County Construction 911 nine months ago.
Perry says the nightmare that began with a charred microwave outlet, continues. She claims the restoration hasn’t been completed.
An inspection report from a third-party contractor states: (the restoration company) ‘failed to cap off supply lines,’ causing damage when the city turned on the water. So, the home has been exposed to ‘elevated humidity levels’ requiring additional restoration.
Orange County Construction claims they had shut off the main water line, did not cause that water damage, and they are not responsible.
Upset with the work done and billing disputes, Perry wanted to get out of her contract. “The condition of my home right now is horrible. It’s actually in a much more compromised state than it was when I met these guys,” she said.
Perry told Action 9 she feels burned by the document she signed the night of the fire, and it has left her feeling stuck and helpless.
While recent legislation has aimed to tackle assignment of benefits contracts, a direction of payment agreement can be a nasty surprise.
“They are different in that it does not give the third party first party contract rights, but they still give control of the money to someone else. Controlling your money is never a good thing,” said insurance expert Tom Cotton.
Cotton says direction-of-payment agreements give contractors the ability to seek payment from the homeowner if the insurance company doesn’t agree to pay what they are billed.
“When 911 is called, there are people that monitor that and they’re going to show up, but you are at your weakest moment, and they will present a contract that you do not have to accept,” Cotton explained.
Cotton recommends calling your insurance company first, if at all possible.
Action 9′s Jeff Deal contacted 0CC911. A manager told Deal the company has been around for 16 years, they have completed 4,500 jobs, and they’re a complete restoration company that stands behind their name, work and integrity. The manager also said that Perry accused the company of things that are not true, and they have tried to resolve her issues. According to the manager, the company has since refunded her unused funds, and they’ve done nothing wrong.
Perry’s attorney has filed a lawsuit at the Orange County Courthouse for negligence, and breach of contract. The suit also alleges OCC911 still owes her money it received for the job.
Orange County Construction 911 (OCC911) statement:
...one of the large delays was the fact we had to get the insurance check recut due to the homeowner incorrectly handling the original check. We did not receive funds for this job until February of 2023.
The second delay came from the homeowner deciding to make structural changes to the home, almost 4 months after the fire. The changes were major structural changes to the structure of the kitchen, to which, it required a full set of engineering plans. Orange County Construction 911, Inc. recommended an engineering company that was able to create a new design and plans for the homeowner. We then needed these plans to submit the changes to the permit. Subcontractors were scheduled to meet at the home to go over the plans and price the work that was not covered by insurance. The process that started with the engineer meeting to the time the change-order pricing was shared with the owner was completed on 2/10/2023, taking 51 days which includes the holidays in December and January. OCC 911, Inc has been blamed for the fault of the delays of the homeowner’s restoration and it’s simply not the case.
The claim about us causing water damage is invalid. We had the water turned off to the home at the house main shut off. Ms. Perry called our salesperson on 3/3/2023 to inform us she had water in her home. The salesperson dispatched our crew along with going out himself to assess the damage. Ms. Perry informed us that she called Orange County Utilities to turn on the water without our knowledge. She also admitted to knowing about this water damage on 3/2/2023 and waited until the following day to inform us. We were on site same day as we were informed about the water and completed an initial report, which clearly showed someone other than an OCC or its representatives turned in the water main to the house on and flooded the house out. Whoever turned the water on did not have OCC permission and was trespassing on a construction site. The homeowner would not let us set drying equipment in the home. We did not have any knowledge or give anyone permission to turn on the water of the home. We were in the middle of construction on this home and would not have let the water be turned on without a project manager or the plumber verifying everything was capped and ready for this. Our office called Orange County Utilities and they have no record of a call to have the water turned on. They sent us the hold harmless agreement that is read to everyone who calls to have the water turned on. It specifically states that if usage is shown on the meter when turned on, it will be turned off. The hold harmless agreement is attached to the bottom of this document. Ms. Perry sent us an email stating she was handling the water mitigation herself on 3/7/2023. We recently were sent a report from ADS, which is a water mitigation company hired and the report showed they started work on 3/7/2023.
We received a report from a 3rd party source recently (that the homeowner had hired) and it stated that the city did a test on 3/2/2023 and that is why the water was turned on. Please note Ms. Perry’s water is through Orange County Utilities. We were also never told about any tests to be completed. Orange County Utilities stated on 6/2/2023 that they never turned the water on or did a test.
OCC Claims no responsibility for the water loss since it or its representatives did not cause the flood. As far as the capping of the pipes, the project had went through the demolition process and the construction phase to have the plumber fix damaged lines for the continuation of the project. This process had yet to be completed. The fail safe for no water leaks was in-fact the house main water value. With that said, we were still trying to mitigate the water loss and was told not to do so.
OCC has since returned her change order funds and the remaining unused funds we received to date for the insurance claim and cancelled our permit.
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