LAS VEGAS, NV (KTNV) — What started out as a leak in a kitchen sink turned into a bewildering legal drama where homeowners feared foreclosure.
13 Investigates is pressing for answers in the case of a contractor who some customers say is using strong-arm tactics. Now some are saying a change in state law is needed to protect homeowners.
Our investigation started nearly a year ago after several homeowners say they were blindsided. Hit by what they call misleading liens a local repair company filed against their homes, demanding payment of sometimes $10,000 to $20,000 for a leaky faucet.
The State Board of Contractors told us they were investigating when our stories first aired in February, but to date, they've taken no action.
We got our first look at Julia Nikolova's dismantled kitchen in January. 10 months later?
"Nothing changed in my kitchen," said Nikolova. "And the reason why is because, during the pandemic, everything was closed."
Everything including contracting companies, considered non-essential in the pandemic's early days.
"I couldn't get an estimate for cabinets or I couldn't find a contractor to actually perform the work during the pandemic," said Nikolova. "Not to mention that it would expose me personally to risk from COVID."
Bolmer Restoration left Nikolova without a fully functional kitchen just before the pandemic hit. With COVID concerns and state restrictions keeping most people cooking at home, she was without some basics, like a pantry, forced to instead store food in boxes on the living room floor.
"So I really had to use a primitive kitchen in my home for all this time period. So it is devastating for me and my family."
Nikolova's sink first sprung a leak around Christmas. As we reported in February, Rooter-man plumbing came to her home and said there could be a serious mold problem. So, they brought in Bolmer Restoration. Both companies are owned by the same man, Eduardo Arredondo.
Bolmer started tearing her kitchen apart, then stopped working and sent her this document via certified mail.
"It says that we have to immediately pay $19,491," Julia explains. "Otherwise they are going to proceed with foreclosure on the mechanical lien on our property and we have to pay this within 15 days."
It was a Notice of Intent to file a Lien with the county recorder.
"It's the most intimidating document that I have actually got in my life," Nikolova said.
Bolmer also sent Nikolova a 13-page document that looks like a contract but with no cost estimates. Instead, "to-be-determined" was listed nearly two dozen times.
A lawyer for Bolmer Restoration says that's common for emergency services because there's no reasonable way or enough time to know the extent of the damage.
Former state lawmaker Chris Edwards disagrees.
"That should be like one of the biggest red flags," says Edwards. "If these are professional contractors. They should be able to estimate everything on that contract."
Edwards reviewed our investigation. He was amazed that other Bolmer customers also got the same vague contract and lien notice as Julia.
"Infuriating and disgusting because people like this make the good contractors look bad," says Edwards.
On the Clark County Recorder's website, 13 Investigates found Bolmer Restoration has filed hundreds of liens against Las Vegas homeowners since 2014.
"Any process can be abused. And this one obviously is being abused," says Edwards.
Darcy Spears: "Does it appear as though the Contractors Board had the opportunity to prevent there being so many victims?"
Edwards: "Yes, I mean, that's them. They told me that if you have five or six liens in your career as a contractor, that's a lot. When this guy is going above 20, 30 and 50, what are they waiting for? I mean, this is a simple, there's something going wrong here, because this is so far out of the norm that it's just not right."
After our investigation aired, Bolmer finally released the lien against Nikolova's house. But not until June.
"So I literally had to live in fear for seven months that Bolmer is going to foreclose on my home during the pandemic," Nikolova explained.
And now, a new fear. "The Contractor Board stated that he may actually record another lien," Nikolova said.
A new search of the Clark County Recorder's database showed, after our investigation aired, Bolmer Restoration released about 40 liens. But many are still active.
While it doesn't appear any new liens were filed since the pandemic began, we obtained documents showing Bolmer pursued legal action this year, suing homeowners in District Court.
"There is a very targeted effort from that contractor to place the liens on the homes instead of finish contractor work," Nikolova said. "So that involves more entity than just the contractor board, I believe."
Edwards agrees, saying state law governing the NV Board of Contractors needs to change.
"I think with information like this, the legislature needs to take some action to beef up the agency that we have--that are supposed to be protecting the consumers--but also write the laws so that there are teeth in the laws."
He says the current system of recording liens may also need an overhaul so the Recorder's office can have some oversight. Now, all it takes to get a lien is a $42 filing fee.
Darcy: "The volume of liens and those hundreds of numbers-- that, in and of itself, doesn't raise a red flag for anybody?"
Edwards: "And that's insane. I mean, how can it not? In any kind of a real-world, seeing that number of complaints, that number of liens by one company has got to be the biggest red flag possible."
Darcy: "Do these cases make it seem like the state is falling down on the job?"
Chris: "I think I would have to say... I would have to say yes."
He says new laws should be an easy fix.
"This should be a no-brainer in the next legislative session," says Edwards.
Especially in a state reeling from the economic effects of an ongoing pandemic.
"The last thing the homeowner wants to know," Nikolova said. "...is that there is a lien on their property and they can attempt to foreclose."
Bolmer Restoration owner Eduardo Arredondo wouldn't talk on camera for our first reports, and still won't now. His attorney sent us a letter which we've posted here.