I-TEAM: Local business owner says contractor failed to complete work as promised

Now stuck paying rent for unfinished store, needs new contractor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Victoria Bradford said she has loved to read since she was a little girl. It’s the reason the second-grade teacher decided to open a coffee and bookstore near Springfield.

She signed a contract with James Frazier Construction on Dec. 28, 2021. She said operations manager/contractor Scott Frazier told her he would finish renovating the store, MeShall Reads Bookstore, located on Main Street near downtown Jacksonville, within four months.

“It would be completed in April 2022,” Bradford said she was promised.

Bradford gave Frazier a $6,500 deposit.

I-TEAM: Local business owner says contractor failed to complete work as promised (News4JAX)

“He came recommended. I was going to do a couple of different quotes from different general contractors and I met with him first and he added to my vision. I was so excited about the things that he brought,” said Bradford, who also said she checked online reviews and saw no red flags about Frazier, either. “When April 2022 rolled around, I got all sorts of excuses from him about when the job could be completed. You know, COVID, turnover, some staffing issues, and I was understanding at first.”

But then the delays persisted.

Sixteen months later, Bradford showed the I-TEAM the work that had been done so far.

“This is where my pastries were going to be served and my coffee products right here,” Bradford explained as we walked through what is a shell of her vision.

The floor is unfinished, metal studs mark where walls are supposed to be built, but haven’t been finished. There is no seating and no counters have been installed.

She said the landlord had been patient with the delays, but has now started charging her to rent the space.

“I literally cannot afford to pay rent on a space that is not open. It’s been a year and a half,” said Bradford.

All she wants now is her $6,500 deposit returned so she can find someone else to finish the store.

The News4JAX I-TEAM contacted Frazier, the contractor, by phone. He told us he is sorry for the delays and felt badly the project is still not done. He also said he would return Bradford’s deposit, but needed to first speak with his attorney. He told me he would start the process of returning the deposit the following week.

That did not happen, instead, he sent the I-TEAM and Bradford an email explaining, among other things, the reason he would not be returning all of Bradford’s deposit. He included an itemized explanation of the work and cost he had incurred, deducted that from the deposit, and then said he would return $229.13 to Bradford, a fraction of what she had paid.

Frazier said designing the renovation and permitting had taken longer than he expected. He said the contract he signed with Bradford did not include design plans, which is something he offered to do as an addition, which took more time.

While the contract states the work would be completed within four months, he also pointed out it states, “completion time frame is for construction time and excludes the time that permitting may take.” Frazier wrote, “The permitting process can take two to six months.”

Bradford said she received an initial design drawing from Frazier, the contractor, in February 2022 and the final plan in July 2022, so she does not understand why 10 months later, the contractor still had not received permitting needed to finish the work.

Now, she said not only is she out of her deposit, but she has also had to pay rent for the space and has spent thousands of dollars to stock the store.

“I’ve been loading up on inventory as far as books and coffee products, all those things, and they’re stored at my house, so I’ve still been buying, buying, buying because I don’t want to wait till the last minute,” she said.

Bradford is hoping another contractor will see her story and has the heart and the time to help her finish her life-long dream of bringing a comfortable place for families to sit, read and enjoy coffee and pastries along downtown Main Street.

If you would like to help Bradford raise the money she needs to hire someone to complete renovation of the store, she has created a gofundme account.

The I-TEAM frequently receives complaints from viewers who have hired a contractor to perform work on their home that is not finished when promised. You should know your rights.

Before you hire anyone to perform work on your home:

  • Read every single word of the contract, before you sign it
  • Ask about permitting, how long could it take? Is that noted in the contract?
  • Who is responsible for supplying design and architectural drawings? Is that noted in the contract?

Florida state statutes dictate the amount of time a contractor is expected to start and finish work:

A contractor who receives, as an initial payment, money totaling more than 10% of the contract price for repair, restoration, improvement, or construction of residential real property must:

  • Apply for permits to do work within 30 days after the date payment is made, except where the work does not require a permit under the applicable codes and ordinances.
  • Start the work within 90 days after the date all necessary permits for work, if any, are issued unless the contractor has just cause for failing to apply for the necessary permits, starting the work, or refunding the payment, or unless the person who made the payment agreed, in writing, to a longer period to apply for the necessary permits or start the work or to longer periods for both.
  • If the contractor fails to comply with the requirements, the contractee must make a written demand to the contractor.

It is important to note, James Frazier Construction is licensed and is in good standing with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, DBPR, which regulates contractors.

DBPR strongly encourages Floridians to verify contractor licenses prior to starting work.

Residents can visit MyFloridaLicense.com and find “Verify a License” on the homepage. Here, they can also look up any licensed professionals and entities and see past disciplinary action.

Anyone can also utilize the ‘File a Complaint” feature on the same page to either create an account and file online or get instructions on mailing a complaint to DBPR. To review the complaint, DBPR would need to see the contract, proof of payment and any permitting information.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding a contractor you have hired or need help filing a complaint, you can also call DBPR’s Customer Contact Center at 850-487-1395.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.