LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — After 13 Investigates first exposed a Las Vegas contractor who was quick to take legal action against his own customers, there have been new developments in this years-long investigation.
Now, a few of the homeowners are starting to get a little help, but some say the system is flawed.
Our investigation of a pair of companies owned by the same man revealed he filed liens on dozens of homes after abandoning the projects.
Four homeowners got some of their money back through the Nevada State Contractors Board's Residential Recovery Fund, a program that's supposed to help homeowners harmed by unscrupulous builders. But we're learning it's not nearly enough.
Julia Nikolova has been fighting for justice ever since Bolmer Restoration left her kitchen in shambles. We featured her in our first investigation after a small leak in the kitchen sink ended up costing her nearly $40,000.
The Board recommended an award of $1,998.93 — a pittance, says Nikolova, estimating it's only about 10% of her out-of-pocket expenses.
"It was not what I was expecting," Nikolova said.
She was hoping for a lot more, considering the Contractors Board permanently revoked the licenses for Bolmer Restoration and Rooter-man plumbing following our investigation.
Both companies were owned by former UNLV soccer player Eduardo Arredondo.
The Board charged Arredondo's parent company with 109 violations and found him guilty last October of "fraudulent or deceitful acts," "failure to comply with contract," "bidding beyond scope of license" and "abandonment." The Board also issued fines totaling $852,015.
For many customers of Bolmer Restoration, that was just one step in a long journey.
"I initially had my kitchen destroyed on December 4, 2019," Nikolova said — just a few months before the pandemic shut everything down.
Nikolova had to live with a torn-up, non-functioning kitchen for nearly a year, forcing her to cook with a crock pot or microwave and spend thousands of dollars on take-out to fill the gaps.
"So, I filed the complaint back in December 23, 2019, and I finally heard from the Recovery Fund," Nikolova explained. "It was in March 2022. So that's a very long way. I'm almost going over two years to hear from them."
Eventually, her homeowners insurance paid another company to put her kitchen back together, and she got about $5,300 from the required bonds Arredondo's company held.
But that leaves her with thousands in out-of-pocket expenses — money she won't recoup through the state.
An administrative law judge with the Board said, according to state law, homeowners are not allowed to recover pain and suffering or legal fees from Residential Recovery Funds. The Board is only allowed to reimburse direct costs related to construction work.
"They said that they're bound by the statue they operate under and they can't reimburse me for my full out-of-pocket expense," Nikolova said.
The board has a total of 15 filed claims for recovery funds related to Bolmer and Rooter-man. They've heard four so far, including Nikolova's.
Another homeowner received about $1,500, the amount he applied for in his claim. The other two homeowners were reimbursed more than $10,000 each.
Why such a huge difference?
In an email, a Contractors Board spokesperson wrote:
"Each case is investigated and the facts for each claim are different. All factors are taken into consideration upon issuing decision on the claim by the Residential Recovery Fund Committee."
Nikolova is beyond frustrated.
"And that this is not really giving fair opportunity of the homeowners to get reimbursed by faulty contractors," she said.
She thought she did the right thing by hiring a licensed and bonded company, so she believes the Board should do more when the companies they regulate cause so much damage.
"They allowed that contractor to operate without business insurance, no business liability insurance," Nikolova said. "And with that decision by itself and with allowing him to operate with two bonds with only $10,000 each on the scope of the damages it was, it was robbing the homeowner, basically, to get a full reimbursement of their expenses."
The Contractors Board says there is no state law requiring contracting companies to carry liability insurance. Nikolova says that needs to change.
"This has been going for too long without anybody addressing it," she said.
We've learned several homeowners are trying to get their liens removed through the bankruptcy case Arredondo filed last spring, but that's like pouring salt on a wound because the homeowners have to pay Arredondo's bankrupt company anywhere from $500 to $33,000 to get the liens released and court cases dismissed.
Find more in-depth reporting from 13 Investigates at ktnv.com/13-investigates.