BOSTON (CBS) – Four businesses claim they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for unpaid services from a shuttered energy efficiency firm, and are trying to force a bankruptcy case to recoup that money.

The I-Team learned an involuntary bankruptcy petition has been filed against Next Step Living, which abruptly closed its doors in March.

New England Insulation, Environmental Abatement, Calyx Retrofit LLC and Pro Insulation LLC say they are owed a combined $309,002.85.

“Each of the four petitioning creditors were hired by Next Step Living as subcontractors to perform insulation and related services at customers’ residences,” said attorney David Madoff. “They completed the services, but were not paid.”

The ceiling in this West Roxbury home collapsed after a Next Step Living insulation job. (WBZ-TV)

The ceiling in this West Roxbury home collapsed after a Next Step Living insulation job. (WBZ-TV)

The business owners declined to comment to WBZ-TV, citing the pending case. Next Step Living has until July 11 to respond.

An involuntary bankruptcy might allow creditors to get paid when they believe a business has assets to pay debts, but is failing or refusing to do so.

It is another black eye for the once-thriving energy efficiency company, a prominent participant in the enormous statewide Mass Save program.

The program, which promotes subsidized energy-efficient upgrades for homeowners and businesses, is largely funded by a surcharge on ratepayers’ monthly utility bills.

In February, an I-Team investigation revealed horror stories from homeowners who had energy improvements performed by Next Step Living, along with hundreds of negative online reviews on sites like Yelp.

The following month, the company closed without warning.

The development left approximately 2,000 Mass Save customers in limbo. Some homeowners had already paid deposits or were in the process of having energy upgrades completed.

A Next Step Living truck. (WBZ-TV)

A Next Step Living truck. (WBZ-TV)

Many of those consumers have flooded the Attorney General’s office with complaints. The AG has received 168 complaints against Next Step Living, and 131 of those have been logged in 2016.

Spokesman Jillian Fennimore told the I-Team a number of those consumers claim they are owed money, too.

After the I-Team highlighted a number of consumer nightmares related to weatherization jobs, the state moved to require permits for insulation work.

If the bankruptcy is approved and a trustee is assigned to the case, it could offer a more complete picture of how many businesses and homeowners were left high and dry.

It is a stunning fall from grace for a company that was recently reporting $100 million in revenue and ranked one of the fastest-growing firms in the state.

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

Comments (2)