Dreams become expensive nightmares with now-former Twin Cities builder

Tens of thousands of dollars disappeared into the hands of a Woodbury contractor who took payment for several projects his business never finished.

In at least some of those cases, they never even started.

A dream remodel turned into a nightmare for Neal and Cilla Whatcott over the last year.

They agreed to pay Homestead Remodeling $78,000 to replace part of their patio and deck with a two-story glass solarium with a spiral staircase.

The contract was signed in December of last year and work was supposed to start in June. But all they got were delays and excuses.

"They kept mentioning they had to consult with other professionals to get the details down," Cilla Whatcott told FOX 9. "Week after week after week, ‘we’re consulting, we’re consulting’ and it just dragged and dragged on."

Contractors finally gave them a new start date in November and told the Whatcotts to start demolishing their previous patio.

"I moved the retainer wall," said Neal Whatcott. "I bought a concrete saw. I cut concrete. I moved blocks of concrete. I moved river rock. I moved plants. I just got everything out of the way."

The next day, Homestead sent an email saying they would not complete the work. So now they’re left with a pile of dirt and a lot of bad feelings about contractors.

"I don’t know if I want to talk to contractors again," Neal Whatcott said.

They also have a $50,000 loan to pay off, and they’re not alone.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has confirmed homeowners paid for at least six projects that Homestead and owner Kenneth Burkhardt didn’t finish.

They’ve revoked the company’s license and Burkhardt’s and they’re referring victims to the Contractor Recovery Fund.

People like the Whatcotts can recover part or all of the money they lost, but the fund won’t pay out more than $550,000 to victims of a single contractor.

"This formally licensed contractor may very well flirt with exceeding that threshold, unfortunately, based on the dollar amounts and the homeowners that we've heard from," Sean O’Neil, the director of licensing and enforcement at the Department of Labor & Industry.

O’Neil says the DLI usually deals with one or two contractors with unfinished work every year, but it’s rare to see homeowners lose this much.

His department doesn’t conduct criminal investigations, but he says law enforcement could very well take a hard look at Homestead. None of that is especially comforting to the Whatcotts.

"Solace for me is ‘OK, you took my money. Now give me my money back,’" said Neal Whatcott.

FOX 9 tried to reach Burkhardt by phone and email, but got no response.

The company website has since disappeared following our investigation.

Anyone who has suffered an actual and direct out-of-pocket loss due to a licensed contractor's fraudulent, deceptive or dishonest practices, conversion of funds or failure of performance can find out more about the Contractor Recovery Fund here. Some customers have also contacted the Federal Trade Commission for a potential federal investigation. The number to call is 877-382-4357.