HENDERSON (KTNV) — Home improvement and remodeling projects have surged during the pandemic with more people working from home and historically low interest rates making home equity loans attractive. High demand can also mean higher risk for fraud or poor workmanship.
13 Investigates shows several homeowners are going to battle against the same local contractor.
Henderson homeowner Sherry Siewers-Jimenez used spare time during the summer shutdown to make some home improvements.
"Well, during covid, we were spending a lot of time here in the house," Sherry says. "And when we bought the house, I thought, gee, I'd love to do a little bit of upgrade because the house was built in '96."
She hired handyman Will Kirby
But she says many things went wrong, taking 13 Investigates on tour of her home.
Sherry: "This is the fireplace that I talked about that we wanted to make a focal point. Will [Kirby] had done from about down here to about up here. So he never really finished that piece."
Darcy Spears: "So that whole top half, you had to have someone else finish it. And the bottom half as well."
Sherry: "That's correct."
Sherry's husband found Kirby on the Next Door app.
"And he said he had been a residential contractor in Florida for 10 years," Sherry says. "We called him up, and low and behold, he could come over on the same day."
She says Kirby told them his Nevada contractor's license was pending the application process.
"He told us he needed a fourth of the money, which was $5,800, up front to just hold time," Sherry explains. "And then half right before he started. So we paid him in two installments. We paid him within that week or so. It was about $2,800."
That was for the fireplace, laminate flooring, tile work and new baseboards throughout the house. Sherry says Kirby promised the job would be done in 10 days.
"And he would come and work two, three hours and then leave. Come back and do the same," says Sherry. "And the baseboards never got completed in the whole time he worked for us, which was 30 days."
As the days dragged on well beyond the promised completion date, Sherry says, "I started to get really, really nervous and upset that this was going in the wrong direction."
Sherry started logging the details, short work days and times Kirby was a no-show. Then one day in August, a woman came knocking on her door.
"'I'm your neighbor. And I think we know somebody in common.' And I said, who would that be? And she said, 'Will.' I said, oh, Will, so Handyman Will."
The neighbor told Sherry that she was having the same problems with Will Kirby. Then the two compared their text message threads.
"We saw that when he said he was going to get something from Lowe's, he would be over at her house for three or four hours. Then he would come back here for a couple hours," says Sherry.
She had a bad feeling about this and said, "This is a mess."
We spoke with Kirby before Christmas, asking for an explanation and an on-camera interview. He said he needed to talk to his attorney. But when we called him back for an answer, his phone had been disconnected.
When Sherry and her neighbor started digging into Kirby's work record, they uncovered a history of problems in Florida.
"And and one of the things he had done was operate as a business that was not licensed," says Sherry. "And the other thing, operate as a contractor not being certified."
13 Investigates spoke with the homeowner in that case. He was eventually reimbursed after a problematic roofing job.
But another Florida man who hired Kirby for a big job in 2018 wasn't as fortunate.
"In total, it was probably about a $40,000 project," said Nick Berganza with 321 Home Solutions in Melbourne, Florida.
"And there were definitely some question marks."
The work was started but, "Week two, Kirby started to disappear from the job. Going off and going out to places, showing up at noon, you know, leaving at 3:00. So that was kind of our first red flag," says Nick.
Nick says it got worse from there.
"We had some of our guys from our in-house crew kind of go through and take a look at everything and were kind of shocked, you know, came back and said how everything wasn't done right."
Nick says he paid Kirby about $33,000, then had to spend at least $15,000 more to re-do what Kirby messed up. Kirby filed a lien against Nick for non-payment but was a no-show in court so the case was tossed-out.
Sherry also learned Kirby has a criminal history in Florida. He was sentenced to five years probation for stealing and pawning three guns and other items from his father-in-law.
"And then he came here and we reported him to the Nevada Contractors Board," says Sherry.
Knowing Kirby's history included stolen guns, Sherry called Henderson Police for assistance the day Kirby came back to get his tools and Sherry fired him. She had to hire others to finish the work Kirby left undone and re-do what he did wrong.
"We lived in our bedroom, one room, for five weeks," says Sherry.
13 Investigates spoke to two other homeowners and the neighbor who knocked on Sherry's door. All of them say they had similar problems with will Kirby.
"And unfortunately, we got stung at the end of it all," says Sherry.
13 Investigates found the Nevada State Board of Contractors has fined Kirby at least $3000. The board confirms there's still an open investigation, so they cannot provide any details.