BOSTON (CBS) – Chhabi Neupane of Natick is finally enjoying his newly renovated kitchen. It was finished by the second contractor he hired. The original contractor did the demolition work, but according to Neupane, never finished the job.
“This is the state that he left the kitchen,” he said while holding up a photo of his kitchen, a shell of a room made up of studs and debris.
Neupane’s first hire was Richard Froias of Universal Home Renovations. Neupane claims he paid Froais $3,000, but he never finished the job. “When he stopped answering my calls, my texts, my emails, yes I thought he was scamming me,” he said.
Another homeowner, who did not want to be identified, showed us her unfinished bathroom. She also paid Froias about $3,000. Again, he did the demolition and left the bathroom unfinished for months. She finally fired him when she discovered he never pulled a permit for the job.
Richard Froias refused to speak with the I-Team on camera. We went to the Somerville address listed on his website, but were told no Richard Froias lived there. We did speak with him on the phone. He told us he tried a number of times to work on Chhabi Neupane’s job, but other contractors were in the way. He even sent us a photo of a doorway that was blocked with several pieces of sheetrock. Froais also told us that he is trying to work out a settlement in the case of the unfinished bathroom.
The I-Team has learned that Richard Froais already owes tens of thousands of dollars for unfinished or sub-par work in Rhode Island. Walter Hobbs lived with a gutted bathroom in his Lincoln, Rhode Island home for two months when Froias left his job unfinished. “He just disappeared and took our money,” Hobbs explained. “He put the new tub in, demoed the tile off the walls and that was it.”
Richard Froais’ track record in Rhode Island was the subject of a story by our sister station, WPRI, back in 2012. They were at the hearing when the state board of contractors revoked his registration.
The I-Team obtained records from Rhode Island showing state officials have ordered Froais to pay more than $130,000 in fines and restitution to nine home owners, including Walter Hobbs. “He should be stopped one way or another,” Hobbs said
The problem for consumers here in Massachusetts is there is no system in the state to provide information about the out-of-state history of contractors. The best protection, according to Andy Crane, president of the Massachusetts Homebuilders Association, is to understand the credentials of the person you are hiring.
That can be tricky in Massachusetts. Richard Froias is a registered home improvement contractor. That means he is registered with the State Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, but he does not have a Construction Supervisors License, or CSL which is issued by the Department of Public Safety. According to Crane, it’s the CSL that requires a certain amount of knowledge and education. “Your CSL license is the work part of any project,” Crane explained. “You need a CSL in order to pull a permit in the state of Massachusetts. If a homeowner hires a contractor who asks the homeowner to pull the permit, that’s a red flag,” he said.
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office told the I-Team Froais could face criminal charges for failing to pay the fines and restitution. But here in Massachusetts, there is nothing preventing him from continuing to do business as a home improvement contractor.
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