JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The state of Florida is taking action against a Jacksonville roofer the I-TEAM has been investigating for nearly a year.
Michael Beard, the owner of Superior Roofing and Restoration in Jacksonville, is accused of ripping off Hurricane Irma victims and other homeowners.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulations has suspended Beard's contracting license because he didn't follow orders from a previous action the state took related to complaints from homeowners.
The agency that regulates contractors also ordered Beard to pay fines and restitution, and then put him on probation in connection with new complaints.
Numerous homeowners contacted the I-TEAM saying after Hurricane Irma hit in September, 2017, Beard took money from them to fix their roof. But they say, he never finished the job. Many of them were military veterans and retired individuals on a fixed income who tell us they are still owed thousands of dollars.
"This is something that didn't have to go to this far and hear the number of excuses that he gives as far as bad weather, too cold, or crews didn't come in or whatever," said Robert Wilson, one of the homeowners who contacted the I-TEAM about Superior Roofing and Restoration.
Robert and his wife Geneva said they paid a $9,400 deposit nearly two years ago, but to this date, not a single repair has been done on their roof. Geneva said it's been frustrating.
"I mean, you trust somebody, they come out and say they're going to do certain things and then every time you go to the office it’s either closed or cars may be there and you call and nobody answers the phone," she said.
According to the state's official complaint, Beard didn't apply for the permit within the required 30 days after taking the Wilsons' money. The state also said Beard abandoned the project on the Wilsons' home.
"Recently I received a letter from the state stating that we are on the list with a number of other people and it will take some time to be processed because this state involvement will take anywhere from six months to a year," Robert told us.
"They don't have a license so there should not be any more victims, said Better Business Bureau Communications Coordinator Shannon Nelson.
The BBB acted as a neutral third party in regards to Superior Roofing, communicating with the public about the growing number of complaints.
"We thought, 'Wow, there's a lot of, you know, really negative information about this business. We need to you know alert the authorities, we need to get these consumer resources and put them to the right state agencies that can really help here,'" Nelson explained.
The Wilsons aren't the only ones who contacted the I-TEAM about Beard and his roofing company. Since our investigation aired last March with U.S. Navy veteran Raymond Libby, we started hearing from others - and the state has moved forward this year with a total of six cases against the Jacksonville contractor.
However, Nelson said it may be months before the Wilsons and others see any more action taken.
"The wheels of justice turn very slowly in these cases," Nelson explained. "The state has to unravel the claims the business made, the allegations that consumers have brought forward, etc."
"As far as taking a long time, hey, I've waited this long," said Robert. "Like I said, this has taken two years, so hey, we just wait and see."
Geneva just wants what they are owed.
"It's our money and we would like to have it back," she said.
The State of Florida has a program available to help homeowners like the Wilsons called the Florida Homeowners Construction Recovery Fund, which is a last resort. Before anyone can receive money from the fund, a judge has to issue a final judgment in favor of the complainant -- who must show that he or she made every effort to recover the lost money. The Wilsons are considering applying to this fund.
Nelson said it's really important for consumers to know the red flags before hiring any contractor. She said to look out for:
- Contractors requiring large deposits
- Contractors making you pay them directly instead of the business
- Contractors pressuring you to sign a contract right away
In addition to profiles on businesses, BBB's website offers additional advice for consumers on hiring a roofing contractor in Florida.
You can also check the state’s website to make sure the business is licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
If you have a complaint against Superior Roofing and Restoration, you can file complaints with the following organizations and agencies: