Homeowners with failing foundations being hit by scammers - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Homeowners with failing foundations being hit by scammers

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Thousands of Connecticut homeowners are desperate as their biggest investment crumbles beneath their feet. (WFSB) Thousands of Connecticut homeowners are desperate as their biggest investment crumbles beneath their feet. (WFSB)

Thousands of Connecticut homeowners are desperate as their biggest investment crumbles beneath their feet.

They are victims of Connecticut’s failing foundation epidemic, but experts warn that many of the families are being targeted by scam artists.

It’s a nightmare that thousands of Connecticut homeowners simply can't wake up from. 

Contractor Don Childree has been replacing failing foundations for Connecticut residents, and said he believes thousands of homes are affected.

He said the work is never ending.

"I’ve given out over the last couple of months 100 estimates,” Childree said.

The Department of Consumer Protection said the issue was likely caused, at least in part, by concrete materials supplied by a Willington quarry that was tainted by high levels of the mineral Pyrrhotite, which weakens foundations over time.

For the last 20 years, Childree has spent most of his professional life replacing the victims’ foundations, but it’s not easy and it isn’t cheap.

The price tag can be $250,000.

"This is a lot of money to spend on something you really shouldn't be spending it on,” Childree said.

The Vezina residence in Ellington is less than 20 miles from Childree’s Stafford Springs job site.

"You can see it's moving, and we don't know what's on the other side,” said Leo Vezina, as he described his home’s failing foundation.

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

The Vezinas said they believe they have been victimized twice.

"The worst is that we love the house so much,” Leo Vezina said.

He and his wife Theresa began searching for an affordable fix.

Eventually, a contractor told them there was no reason to replace the foundation and that he could repair it with metal beams for $26,000.

"After it was done we felt so good, because we said ‘we're Scott Free’,” Theresa Vezina said.

The only problem was the repairs didn’t work, and now the cracks are getting bigger.

“I don’t know what to say. My wife would cry,” Leo Vezina said.

“It’s very stressful,” Theresa Vezina.

Childree said the metal beams are actually making the problem worse by adding pressure to the already crumbling foundation he is working on.

Childree is an expert on the issue and serves as a member of South Windsor’s Town Crumbling Foundation Advisory Board and said the kind of repair the Vezinas got is lazy and ineffective and unethical.

"If they're experts in concrete, then they know what this stuff is and if they know what this stuff is then they know those fixes don't work,” Childree said.

He isn’t the only contractor who feels this way.

John Soucy of Stafford Springs said his 30 years of experience have proven to him that you cannot repair crumbling concrete, and that it must be replaced.

"It’s a band aid and it'll look good for a few months and then the cracking will show up right behind it and you're in the same position,” Soucy said.

The Vezinas aren’t the only people who claim to have shelled out thousands of dollars for worthless repairs.

Ken Maynard of Enfield paid $35,000 to a contractor who claimed metal beams and a thin layer of concrete would fix his foundation, but the repairs didn’t work.

"We saw the outside crumbling...the outside was breaking down,” Maynard said.

Now both the Maynards and Vezinas are in the hole, and would need to spend more than $150,000 to replace their foundations.

“It's not a good feeling...not a good feeling at all...you have to do something or abandon the house,” Maynard said.

The Vezinas have decided to move forward, but it wasn’t easy. They are both in their 80s and did something they haven’t done since they were newlyweds…take out a loan.

"My biggest struggle is…I think it's the stress of having to go into debt at our age,” Theresa Vezina said.

Both families won’t mention the names of their old contractors because they are suing them, but Childree estimates dozens of people have been victimized in the same way.

Theresa said she looks forward to her day in court.

“I would tell them that they're very dishonest, and how could they…How can they do something like that,” Theresa Vezina said.

Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris said contractor complaints are part of the agencies expansive investigation into the epidemic and it appears full replacement is the only way to solve the problem.

"People should proceed with caution and not go for a quick fix that may not work,” Harris said.

He added that people should make sure any contractor selected is licensed, and always get multiple opinions.

“Even legitimate businesses might think something works and it might not, but there are also tends to be a higher possibility of scam artists coming on, and preying on fear to get people to do things,” Harris said.

"Consumer protection needs to step in and they need to regulate what happens with these foundations,” Childree said, adding that victims should call a lawyer first and file a complaint to the Department of Consumer Protection.

"There’s a lot of contractors doing a lot of different things that are not the proper way to fix these foundations,” Childree said.

He added that he worries unethical contractors will only get more aggressive in the future.

After all, the number of potential targets is growing as quickly as the cracks in their foundations.

"I'm seeing people every week that have just found out they have it,” Childree said.

Anyone who thinks their home may be affected can find helpful resources here.

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