WINSTON-SALEM , N.C. — Theresa James and her husband first started designing a dream kitchen for their Winston-Salem home in January.
They signed a contract with American Kitchen, the Burlington remodeling business that shut its doors last week after laying off its employees.
The Better Business Bureau and Attorney General’s Office are both investigating.
FOX8 has talked to 14 Triad homeowners who say they’ve paid for kitchens that are still unfinished.
Nearly $42,000 and six months later, the work at Theresa’s house is not done. Cabinets and counters are unfinished, and now the couple is hitting an unexpected road block.
There are still open building permits under American Kitchen for the work at their home.
Even if Theresa could afford to hire a new general contractor to finish the work, according to North Carolina state licensing laws, a general contractor cannot work under another general contractor’s permits.
Dan Dockery is the Chief Building Official for Winston-Salem, Forsyth County.
Right now, he says they have 17 building permits and 7 electrical permits still open for American Kitchen dating back to 2011.
Even if some of those customers have finished kitchens built years ago, they need to contact Dockery.
They can’t sell their homes with open permits, and work done at the home could be unsafe since it has not been officially inspected yet.
Dockery and his team are working on an informal program to help American Kitchen customers in Forsyth County.
“Number one starts Monday. For the people that have contacted us this week, our senior building inspector and senior electrical inspector are gonna go out and visit these people’s houses. We’re gonna walk through. We’re gonna make sure they’re safe.”
Dockery said that courtesy inspection would be the first step.
The next step is helping them get their kitchens completed.
One option, Dockery explained, is for homeowners to file a change of contractor affadavit with the Inspections Office so they can move on with the work with a new contractor.
He’s advising homeowners against that for now, though.
“The danger in that to the homeowner is the contractor [American Kitchen] may be able to use that in court and say the homeowner breached his contract by dismissing them.”
A second option is to work with the Inspections Office to open new permits under a new general contractor, and then tie them to the open American Kitchens permits.
Dockery said he’s also been in contact with the former construction advisor of American Kitchen. The man did not want to be identified to media yet, but he was laid off without being paid, according to Dockery.
“If expenses and finances allow, he will go ahead and complete the job and they can maintain their current permits and get them CO’d and out of the way,” Dockery explained.
The man cannot afford to do the work for free, however, and many customers tell FOX8 they’ve hit their financial limits.
Dockery asks American Kitchen customers in Forsyth County to contact him immediately at (336) 727-2084.
“We will bend over backwards to help them,” he added.
Customers like Theresa appreciate any advice and help.
“I really wish we would rally together and come together as customers and victims in this and say you know what, this is wrong.”
She is in the process of hiring a lawyer and hopes their kitchen is somehow completed before she hosts her family reunion in August.