Raleigh woman homeless after paying contractor $90K

Her dream was to sit on her front porch and enjoy retirement. Instead, Eloise Chisolm Ubani spent thousands of dollars for a renovation that has left her homeless. She says that plan was foiled after she hired Customized Builders, LLC for the job.

In December 2015, Eloise signed a contract with Customized Builders to do work on her home which included an addition with a new master bedroom and bath, a complete remodel of the kitchen, existing bathroom, front living room and foyer, and even a new front porch.

It's been more than a year and a half since the contract was signed, and she paid Customized Builders more than $90,000. The renovation is still not done.

"I can't live in here, and I'm gonna cry," said Eloise as she walked us through the house.

As I walked around the house, Eloise pointed out her master bedroom, the walk-in closet, and the bathroom. It's all just framed. There is no promised sheetrock, floors, or fixtures. The contractor, Edward Brantley, even took her plumbing.

"He took out all of my plumbing," said Eloise. "I don't know why he had to do that."

Eloise says the contractor also took out all of her electrical.

Eloise Chisolm Ubani stands in her unfinished kitchen.

Despite the original contract quoted for $60,000, Eloise paid Customized Builders more than $90,000 as several change orders were added that she says Brantley said needed to be done to the home. One of those change orders was a new roof which she paid Customized Builders $5,200 for.

"He told me I needed a new roof and I said no I don't, it's only 10 years old and he said yes you do, you have bunches of holes up here, so I said OK. Now this part leaks when it rains," she said.

As time went on, despite paying Customized Builders more than $90,000, Eloise says Brantley refused to do any more work.

"After I gave him the last check he wanted more money," Eloise explained, "I said no, I can't give you any more. You need to put my house back together, the house is not together and you want me to give you more money. I'm not giving it to you, and that was when he left."

Eloise hasn't seen Brantley since then.

I reached out to Edward Brantley of Customized Builders and his attorney through email sent me a letter. The attorney stated that work was provided which extended beyond the contract along with change orders and it was not paid for. He even added that Eloise ran out of money to complete the job due to change orders. He also claimed her electrical and plumbing were bad which is why they had to come out.

He listed several jobs that were complete, like removing the chimney and the front porch. However, if you look at how the front porch looks today, it's not done.

Eloise Chisolm Ubani's front porch still is in need of repairs.

The letter also says the contractor removed dirt away from the home and added a retaining wall and a concrete pad. While those jobs have started, they are not finished. Eloise also has checks that show she paid for those change orders.

"It's still a nightmare. I can't live in my house, and it's not worth enough for me to sell it," said Eloise.

More than a year and a half after signing the contract, Eloise is homeless since she can't live in her home. Her dream of retiring at the age of 66 is gone as she now works two jobs to try and get the money she needs to hire someone else to finish her renovation.

The attorney for Customized Builders said, "The Company is winding down its business but is willing to complete the work once all the change orders are addressed."

Eloise is taking Customized Builders to court.

The best advice when you're looking for a contractor is do your research and talk to homeowners who have used the company before. Also, when the job is more than $30,000, the contractor has to be licensed. In this case, Customized Builders was licensed when they signed the contract, but are now not licensed according to the NC Licensing Board of General Contractors. Also, never keep paying money to the contractor for change orders unless the contractor will put the change order in writing.

Several people have reached out on how they can help Eloise. A GoFundMe page has been set up by Eloise's colleagues at NC State. They say all of the donations will be used to cover the cost of supplies and resources to get her back in her home.

Eloise says she's thankful for all of the support and kind works as she tries to pick up the pieces.
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