Action 9

‘People are panicking’: Homeowners fear losing homes after HOA hires unlicensed contractor

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. — Some homeowners in one Volusia County community are up in arms after they claim their homeowners’ association president hired an unlicensed contractor to work on their buildings. They told Action 9′s Jeff Deal they’re worried about how they will cover the extra costs to finish the job.

Carol May has enjoyed the Hidden Pines community in New Smyrna Beach for years. “It was such a wonderful community. I mean, everybody was so nice,” she said.

Recently, though, actions taken by her homeowners’ association have her concerned. She’s specifically worried about someone who replaced windows and siding on some of the buildings in their townhome community. She showed Action 9 a renovation agreement with Rusty Nail Reno’s LLC that was signed by the Hidden Pines HOA president Richard Behrens. The problem is that the owner of Rusty Nail Reno’s, Bradley Schleper, isn’t licensed as a contractor by the State of Florida.

READ: Couple scammed out of nearly $24,000 turns to Action 9 for help

The City of New Smyrna Beach confirmed that no permits were pulled for the job initially, and it issued a stop-work order in March. Last year, Schleper entered a no-contest plea to charges of contracting without a license. State investigators said he was paid nearly $127,000 for work on a home. The investigator also claimed that no permits were pulled and that he “never finished the job” according to court records.

May said, “A lot of our feelings are, ‘Why didn’t the board check on that?’ We have to as homeowners.”

Schleper is also awaiting trial on an aggravated assault charge after a Volusia County man told investigators Schleper “brandished what looked like a camouflage AK-47 type rifle” during a dispute about another job. Schleper denies the allegation and told Action 9 he was home at the time this allegedly happened.

No one answered at the HOA president’s home when Deal tried to ask him about the hire. Deal also tried to reach him by phone.

Real estate attorney Karen Wonsetler told Action 9 that hiring an unlicensed contractor can be costly. “The only person who’s going to pay to get these homeowners associations out of a bad situation with unlicensed contractors is to have all of the members pay and now have a licensed contractor come in and fix it.”

Some residents said they’re concerned about spending more if the unfinished work has to be re-done and finished with the new contractor who has since taken over the project.

With this issue and other spending decisions by the HOA, some homeowners said the president is proposing an assessment of roughly $22,000 for each homeowner. It’s money May said some of the residents just can’t afford.

READ: ‘Extremely unsettling’: Consumer claims portable tracker found in car he just bought

“These people are panicking. I mean to the point where they are crying and (asking) ‘Where am I going to go? What am I going to do?’” she said.

Schleper told Deal over the phone that he was hired to do work that initially didn’t require a contractor’s license or permit and that he does top quality work, but said he did some window replacements before getting permits because it was an emergency situation. He believes he just got caught in the middle of an HOA dispute that’s been going on for years. The city has reported him to the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency that oversees contractors.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.