CHICAGO (CBS) — A construction company is still going after a senior citizen for thousands of dollars by keeping a lien on her property, even after the city ruled the company committed fraud after she hired them to rebuild her balcony and fix her chimney.
CBS 2’s Morning Insiders are digging into the little-known legal maneuver every homeowner should know about.
“This is what I have had to live with,” Dellena Tibbs said, pointing to the incomplete balcony protruding from the front of her house.
Tibbs is a South Side grade school teacher who’d give an ‘F’ to Nombach Home Exteriors.
She hired them to rebuild her balcony and repair her chimney back in the summer of 2018.
“They just treated me like trash,” Tibbs said.
Last year, the city probed the project and they gave Nombach a poor grade as well.
A violation notes Nombach “failed to rebuild balcony in workmanlike manner & acknowledged it.”
The city’s notice also described buckled boards, no plywood subfloor, a rain-filled light fixture, water seeping down into Tibbs’ brick wall, and holes in her brick from removed handrails.
“(The boards) started to ripple and separate and come apart,” Tibbs said.
Today, the boards have visibly separated in two parts of the balcony. Tibbs said she first noticed them slightly separating about a week after Nombach installed them in early August 2018.
Then the company missed an August 20th contract deadline to complete the project.
Tibbs asked them to come back the next summer, when she was done with the school year and could be there to supervise and make sure everything was done to her satisfaction.
“Time and the weather was no longer conducive to having the work done successfully,” Tibbs said.
But a few months later, Nombach started asking her for two-thirds of the total–more than $7,000.
“I reminded them that, indeed, the job was not done. In fact, it was poorly done. And why are you asking me for money and you have to come back and do it?” Tibbs said.
So Nombach put a lien on Tibbs’ house, demanding more than $9,200.
She then got in touch with the City of Chicago, and that’s when they started their probe.
The city found eight counts of consumer fraud. Records show, in addition to the allegations of poor workmanship, the city accused Nombach of not including an itemized cost breakdown in their contract, and telling Tibbs they could refurbish her handrails even though the rails were not up to code.
All of the work, from the chimney to the balcony, was done without the required permits.
“Tibbs was misled into signing contract,” a violation notice states. “Now balcony must be rebuilt with permit.”
Nombach pleaded liable to the eight counts and records show they paid more than $4,000 in fines.
But they still have a mechanic’s lien on the house, according to county records. The company claims in their lien notice that they “completed all of the Work under the terms of and in accordance with the Contract.”
Sean Patrick and Aaron Rifkind are consruction attorneys not involved in the case. Patrick said a lien is, in part, “a faster way for a contractor to foreclose on the property.”
They also explained that a contractor generally has two years from the filing of a lien to sue the homeowner, which is a step toward potential foreclosure.
“If a contractor feels that they’re owed even a dollar, technically they can put a mechanic’s lien on the property,” Rifkind said.
Homeowners can fight a lien, but it could be a costly court battle.
But what about the company?
“The contractor can take off the lien at anytime, if they want,” Patrick said.
After several phone calls, a voicemail, and an email with no response, CBS 2 visited the company in Blue Island.
An employee told us that the people in charge were all out of the office and wouldn’t be back for one or two weeks.
In a follow up phone call, an employee told CBS 2 there would be no comment.
“They need to understand they can’t do this to people,” Tibbs said.
Tibbs hopes, when the people in charge at Nombach return to the office, they’ll take the lien off.
She said, at this point, she does not want the company to come back and finish the job; but she does want them to cover her legal fees.