BBB Investigation: Barn construction company customers allege losing thousands

 

lisa-quinn-unfinished-work-texas-barncrafters

COLLEGE STATION, TexasA local College Station barn builder is facing allegations from customers who claim they paid thousands of dollars upfront and never had their projects completed. The builder is also facing civil lawsuits in two Texas counties.

According to complaints filed with BBB against the business, consumers allege Lonestar Barn Company has yet to complete promised projects.

Clay Lambert was looking to build a barn this summer and decided to do some research online to find companies that could do the job.

“I called a few places and got a quote,” Lambert said.

He eventually found Lonestar Barn Company online and left a few messages. Owner Marcus Thompson called back and told Lambert he would come out to look at the property. Lambert signed the contract and gave Thompson $500 to get the process going.

He followed up the $500 with payments of $5,000 for trusses and $14,500 for other materials and to get Thompson’s crew to the job site. After paying around $20,000, Lambert claims the project has been filled with constant delays and broken promises.

“He’s texted me that his crew is running behind because of rain. Then he says they will be here at a certain time, but they never show up,” Lambert said.

To date, Lambert has yet to receive all the materials he has paid for.

“What’s on my property is not $20,000 worth of materials,” Lambert said.

Lambert isn’t the only person to file a complaint against Thompson’s business.

Another consumer filed a complaint with BBB alleging he paid 65 percent of his total contract but never received any materials. The consumer alleges losing around $21,000 and stated the business never provided a refund.

Through research, BBB discovered Thompson and his businesses, Lonestar Barn Company and Texas Barncrafters, are currently facing several civil lawsuits.

According to court documents filed in Fort Bend County in August of this year, Chris Louivere is suing Thompson and Lonestar Barn Company.

Documents filed in his case show Louivere allegedly paid Thompson $21,185.75 of their $32,585 contract. The lawsuit claims Thompson delayed delivery of promised materials, causing Louivere to demand the materials be delivered or be reimbursed.

An email chain included in the lawsuit shows Thompson emailed Louivere on March 10, 2016, saying materials were ready to be delivered and needed a check to be sent out that day or the following day in order to pay for materials. An email sent by Louivere in April claims he had yet to receive anything he ordered, but Thompson responded saying he was a victim of identity theft and was having trouble with his trailer.

Documents show the two also sent several text messages back and forth between March and April. According to the texts, Thompson allegedly had trouble with the check he received for the materials. Once the issue was settled, Louivere texted Thompson about the arrival of his materials. Thompson told Louivere his crew would arrive on March 30, but later texted they would not.

Texas Barncrafters, Thompson’s former company which is no longer in operation, had similar complaints filed with BBB that alleged customers paid thousands of dollars upfront and didn’t have their projects completed.

Lisa Quinn of Louisiana said she contracted with Texas Barncrafters in December 2014. Quinn said she paid Thompson around $21,000 for work that was not completed. She said she ran into problems with Thompson acquiring a permit to build a barn in Louisiana and was told by Thompson weather was causing the delay.

Eventually, Quinn decided to terminate the contract.

“I had to pay around $24,000 to other contractors to finish the barn,” Quinn said.

Quinn said she talked to an attorney, but was told she could take her case to claims court.

“I was at the point that I thought, ‘I’m not going to get anything from this guy’,” Quinn said.

However, Jeremy Snow, another customer who filed a complaint with BBB against Texas Barncrafters, did get a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in Fort Bend County against the business, Thompson and his co-owner, William Scarbrough. The suit is the second Thompson is facing in the county.

The lawsuit states the business was contracted to build a home for $272,000. The problems started when withdrawals were allegedly taken out for work that had not been completed or started by the business, leading Jeremy and his wife, Melissa Snow, to complain about the progress of their home to the business. However, they were assured the work would be completed. The suit alleges the Snows eventually hired other contractors to complete the work, but only after they paid close to $72,000 to Texas Barncrafters.

BBB contacted Jeremy Snow, who said the lawsuit is still in the courts. He told BBB of an incident in which he says he confronted Thompson about fake receipts that were given to him as proof of purchased materials.

“I started making phone calls and none of the vendors he provided me receipts for took an order from him,” Snow said.

“They talked to him and gave him quotes, but he never paid for it.”

Snow said he forgave Thompson and gave him the benefit of the doubt. However, he said the project continued to move at a slow pace and Thompson eventually did not return phone calls or texts.

BBB spoke with Thompson over the phone and emailed him a letter concerning the allegations against his businesses.

Thompson stated the only jobs he has not been able to complete were a direct result of the buildings being delayed because of rain.

“It has not been because of a lack of effort on our part,” Thompson said.

He also denied giving Jeremy Snow fake receipts, but admitted he refunded him money for materials that were not ordered because of a change in the initial contract.

“My achilles heel has been weather. Everybody has either told me to stop work or don’t come back. I wish I could please everybody,” Thompson said.

BBB asked Thompson about a possible affiliated LLC to Lonestar Barn Company called Fourts Barns LLC. Thompson said the LLC was started by his wife and that it is not connected with his company.

“We never did anything with it. No business has been conducted,” Thompson said.

BBB also uncovered a third civil lawsuit against Thompson in Brazos County filed on October 28, 2015. The lawsuit listed Thompson and Texas Barncrafters as defendants. It alleged William Carver, a former customer, paid $32,138 to Thompson for work that was not completed. A judgment was issued by the court which awarded Carver a total of $35,000.

BBB was unable to confirm if Carver received the $35,000.

Thompson said the delays of Carver’s project were caused by severe rain.

BBB offers these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Never pay upfront. Try to arrange a low down-payment and only pay the contractor according to how much work has been completed. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Always pay with either a credit card or check, never cash.
  • Check references. Look at more than what the contractor supplies. If possible, ask to visit previous jobs and interview the given references. Ask the previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and if it was completed on schedule. Ask why they would recommend that particular contractor and if they would use the business again. Also, find out if the original estimate was close to what they paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.
  • Get multiple estimates. When hiring a contractor to do any type of work, get at least three estimates. Make sure the contractors have proof of their licenses and insurance. Ask if a permit is required for the project. Qualified contractors are able to acquire any permits before starting the job. Check out a contractor at bbb.org to see how long they have been in business, if they are accredited and if there are any complaints against the business.
  • Get everything in writing. Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should include: contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and the cost, warranties and any specific promises. Make sure the agreement includes that the contractor is accountable for cleaning up the area after completion of the project. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.
  • Keep communication documented. Any emails or text messages that are sent or received should be saved in case any disputes arise. This can be especially useful if certain promises were made and not followed through by a contractor.
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