NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A warning for anyone thinking about replacing their roof.
Be careful about who you hire to do the job.
Metro Police arrested the owner of a roofing company over the weekend. And NewsChannel 5 Investigates has found the guy has run roofing companies in at least four other states and left a trail of unhappy customers.
"I wonder how many other people he has taken advantage of," Roger Stephens asked.
Stephens knew he needed a new roof and he decided to call Tennessee Metal Roofing after seeing the company's ads and promises of a life-time guarantee.
What he didn't realize was that call would lead to the arrest of one of the company's principals. James Patrick Kenton of Mt. Juliet is now charged with home improvement fraud.
Stephens signed a contract with Tennessee Metal Roofing to pay nearly $12,000 for a new roof.
He made a down payment and said the company agreed to finance the rest at a low rate.
But Stephens said two days later, another employee showed up with a new contract.
"And I said, 'Whoa, wait a minute. We done sign paperwork.' And he handed it to me and I said, 'Let me look at that.' And I started to flip through it and he said, 'No, it’s all the same. All you need to do, they said, was just sign it right there on the bottom,'" Stephens recalled.
But Stephens said the price for the roof in the new contract had gone up to $19,000 and the interest rate was more than double what he'd agreed to.
"Were you surprised?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Stephens.
"Oh yeah, very much surprised. I mean the money I’ve got it, is very little," he replied.
So, Stephens called the Tennessee Metal Roofing office to cancel the deal.
"I said, 'Let’s just forget it. You send me my $1990 back and we'll just scrap the whole thing.' He told me on the phone, 'It’ll be a cold day in (pause) (hell) before you get your money back,'". Stephens described.
"I think the most outrageous part is the company owner's reaction to me reaching out to him," Metro Police detective William Thorowgood told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The fraud detective said James Kenton essentially told him the same thing when he contacted the roofing company and asked Kenton if he'd cashed Stephens' check. Thorowgood said Kenton replied, "You're damn right I did and he's not getting his money back."
"What makes this fraud is that the work was not done and the money was taken. In Tennessee we have laws that say if you want your money back the contractor or anybody who is doing the work is required to give that money back once you notify them through certified mail," Thorowgood explained.
Kenton denied our request for an interview but his attorney, in a statement, blamed Stephens for violating the contract by refusing to let the company complete the repairs.
"What struck me was his unwillingness to cooperate," Det. Thorowgood remarked.
"You know this is a company that has been doing a lot of business throughout the state and really frankly $2000 is not a lot of money to them so for them to react the way they did, it was shocking," the detective added.
Det. Thorowgood said he's heard from angry customers across middle Tennessee and we've heard from at least four other customers who told us Tennessee Metal Roofing damaged their roofs and their homes and then wouldn't take their calls, fix the problems, or honor the company's so-called lifetime guarantee.
And this isn't the first time Kenton has run afoul of the law.
Back in 2002, he pleaded guilty to theft by deception, unfair business practices, witness tampering and destroying evidence in New Hampshire for double billing an elderly roofing customer and threatening another. He was sentenced to a year behind bars. He was also sued by the state Attorney General there and was banned from doing business in New Hampshire for ten years.
And state regulators In Massachusetts revoked Kenton's contractors license in 2016 after getting multiple complaints from roofing customers and Kenton failed to pay $10,000 he owed them.
Here in Tennessee, Roger Stephens just wanted a new roof. Now, he wants his money back and Kenton punished.
"Something has to be done so he can’t do it no more," Stephens said.
Kenton's attorney gave us a copy of an unsigned cancellation form which he said proves Kenton never opted out or cancelled his contract. But this is not required under Tennessee law and actually Stephens says he was never even given the form. Stephens did however cancel the contract in writing by certified mail which is all the law requires.
If you would like to file a complaint against Tennessee Metal Roofing:
If you live in Nashville, you can email the Metro Nashville Police Department's Fraud Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you live anywhere in Tennessee, you can also file a complaint with the TN Dept. of Commerce and Insurance's Contractors Board at 615-741-8307 or toll-free 800-544-7693 or by email at Contractors.Home-Improvement@tn.gov.