BBB warns of Mentor contractor leaving customers with unfinished work

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CLEVELAND (WJW)- The Better Business Bureau is warning about a local contractor it says has charged customers thousands of dollars for work that was never completed.

Rached Belhouane said work on his new Cleveland laundromat, East 55th Laundromat, is now months behind schedule and way over budget.

He filed a police report in January, which states Belhouane paid contractor Zackary Robinson, of Robinson Contracting in Mentor, more than $133,000. According to the police report, Belhouane said Robinson, "Didn't do the work he was contracted to do, poured concrete in the sewer lines after the relationship soured and never returned the money."

The report also states the building’s owner told police he found holes poked in the building’s roof and a derogatory message spray painted on the roof. The owner estimated the damage totaled more than $100,000.

“I don't know what to do. I'm going to prosecute him. I wish they'd take him to jail,” Belhouane said. “He has to stop doing this.”

He’s not alone.

The owner of Lakeshore Plaza on Lakeshore Boulevard in Euclid, Lakeshore Plaza Holding, LLC, filed a lawsuit against Robinson Contracting in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in January. The lawsuit states the owner paid Robinson $16,200 for renovations to be completed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 30, according to a signed contract.

“Robinson and Zackary are in default for failure to perform, failure to obtain proper permitting and for performing substandard and not-to-code work and for conversion of funds to the personal account of Zackary,” the lawsuit states.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland has received multiple complaints about the business.

“We've had some pretty egregious complaints from people, several of them business owners,” said Sue McConnell, president and CEO of the local BBB. “He's torn things up and not come back to finish. He's always asking for more money.”

McConnell said Robinson Contracting, which also does business as ZR Contracting, has an “F” rating with the BBB amid more than half a dozen similar, unresolved complaints about work at homes and businesses across Northeast Ohio.

In 2016, Robinson was convicted in Painesville Municipal Court on several counts, including for working without a permit, failing to pay permit fees and violating a bond/insurance requirement. Robinson was placed on probation and ordered to pay restitution and fees.

Robinson defended his actions Monday, telling FOX 8 News he stands by his work.

“When I get a job, I've never just taken somebody's check and left and not started any work,” Robinson said. “After that, it's always something.”

Robinson said various projects have stalled because of unforeseen delays, including from subcontractors and city inspectors. He said his subcontractors have obtained the proper permits.

“Maybe if I’m not quick enough for them, they should hire somebody else,” Robinson said.

“There's three sides to every story: theirs, mine and the truth. I guess a lot of people just try to get stuff for free. And, we're going to get the job done, it's just maybe not going to be as fast as the next guy.”

Some customers told the BBB they've been forced to start projects over with new contractors at a loss of thousands of dollars.

“They're stuck with work that isn't finished, money they'll never see again and lessons learned the hard way,” McConnell said. “What you need to do is make sure you're dealing with a reputable contractor in the first place.”

To protect yourself, the BBB recommends you research companies, get quotes from multiple businesses, check references, get a written and signed contract, confirm building permits and never pay in full up front. When you do pay, the BBB advises against paying cash and instead suggests writing a check to a company or using a credit card, which may provide some recourse.

The BBB also suggests checking to confirm insurance coverage and local licenses before hiring a contractor.

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