Contract Dispute Keeps Rowlett Tornado Victims From Rebuilding

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ROWLETT -- Folks in Garland and Rowlett are still torn up after an EF-4 tornado tore through the area the night after Christmas.

"It only took a few minutes," recalled Janice Fontaine of Rowlett, "and we heard glass breaking and the loudness of the tornado pounding."

From the outside, Fontaine's Rowlett home looks better than a lot of tornado-damaged homes in the area, but inside, it's far from liveable.  Because of the storm damage, it had to be stripped just about down to the studs.

Fontaine hired a restoration company to clear out the damaged materials and prep the house to be rebuilt, but when they were done and she got a $39,000 invoice, things just weren't adding up.

General contractor Lin Tyler says many of the items on the invoice simply hadn't been completed.

"There's a lot of things on here that were charged that were not done," he told NewsFix, holding a copy of the invoice.  He pointed out to us a number of examples - from dirt and debris to entire appliances that were supposed to have been removed.

Fontaine told her insurance company not to pay the disputed bill, and now that money is frozen.  She can't start any repairs - and is living out of boxes in a hotel room - until the dispute is settled.

"You feel very taken-advantage-of," Fontaine said. "I don't understand how they can live with themselves."

Yeah,  Fontaine feels like she's been ripped off, but there are two sides to every story.

Ryan Kientzler from Paul Davis Restoration admits the initial invoice was high, but says he's been working to get it down.

"We're reducing the overall severity of the claim," Kientzler said, "in order to help get enough dollars in order to put her home back together."

Kientzler says there hasn't been much face-to-face communication, but based on what both sides told NewsFix, it sounds like they're not far from a number they can agree on.

"I think we've been very, very fair and generous with the reduction of the invoice," said Kientzler. "That's why I'm not afraid to meet with CW33 is because we have not done anything wrong."

But for Janice Fontaine and other homeowners stuck in contractor litigation, there's more than money on the line.

Said Fontaine: "I'm just waiting and hoping, each week, each day, there might be some kind of settlement or answer where we can get our money and get back home."