County Strips Custom Home Builder of License for Repeated Code Violations

County Strips Custom Home Builder of License for Repeated Code Violations

Company was accused of substandard construction, forging a homeowner’s signature

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A JRK Contractor home under construction.

Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection

Updated 4:27 p.m. Thursday: The county’s consumer protection office has stripped a local custom home builder of its contractor’s license after determining company owners repeatedly violated county and state law, forged a property owner’s signature and did shoddy construction work on projects in Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

JRK Contractor LLC, owned by Fernando Guedes Jr. and Fernando Guedes Sr., has constructed six homes in Montgomery County since 2015, according to a news release. Homeowners in three of those cases submitted complaints to the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection, alleging misrepresentations and serious building deficiencies.

The revocation of a building contractor’s license is a rare event for the county’s office of consumer protection. In fact, a county spokesman said office members couldn’t recall another time they’d resorted to the disciplinary action.

“This legal action that was taken is extraordinary, and it certainly wasn’t done with respect to cosmetic problems,” Eric Friedman, director of the consumer protection office, said. “We’re talking about serious construction deficiencies and safety issues.”

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Fernando Guedes Jr. said he’d been advised by an attorney to say little about the allegations against the Bethesda-based company owned by him and his father.

“We’ll be absolutely appealing this decision, which we were not aware of or informed of,” he said. “We will be righting this wrong.”

Friedman said Guedes’ claim that he hadn’t been informed was “100% false” and shared the affidavit of a process server who said on April 5, she’d handed over a hearing notice to a man at the address of JRK’s resident agent.

Following a May 18 hearing, the county’s Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings found that JRK had repeatedly violated county and state laws and recommended that the company lose its license. The consumer protection office’s board of registration adopted that recommendation on July 10 with an order to revoke the license.

Friedman said JRK had 30 days to appeal the July order but had not done so by the deadline. No company representative was present at the May administrative hearing, according to a transcript.

Two homeowners in Bethesda and one in Chevy Chase have lodged complaints against JRK since the company received its building contractor’s license in April 9, 2015, according to a county order.

One of those homeowners, who’d hired JRK to build a $2.5 million home at 5612 McLean Drive in Bethesda, testified at an administrative hearing that he’ll probably have to spend another $1 million on fixing construction deficiencies, according to a transcript. Jon Williams and his husband, Christopher Coyne, entered the building contract with JRK in December 2016, with an original move-in date of June 2017, but Williams said the home was still not habitable as of the hearing.

“This has been the worst experience that my husband and I have gone through in our 16-year relationship, and the financial damage is just extraordinary,” Williams said in a Thursday phone interview.

Williams, Coyne and their three children finally moved into their new home in July, but the structural problems have persisted. Because the air conditioning systems are too small for the home’s size, temperatures in upper parts of the house hovered at 95 degrees during last month’s heat wave no matter what the family did to cool down, he said.

Then there were the plumbing issues that caused a major flood in the house, wiring problems and plywood that was rotting beneath an exterior stone façade that hadn’t been properly waterproofed, Williams said.

In its order revoking the company’s license, the board of registration found:

  • JRK representatives had forged a homeowner’s signature on a building permit application for construction of a home at 5608 McLean Drive in Bethesda. The homeowner testified that he’d contracted with JRK to work on his home but never signed the permit application.
  • JRK violated county building code while constructing a custom home at 4503 Elm St. in Chevy Chase with improper gas piping, attic access, basement insulation and drainage slopes. Friedman said JRK also breached county code by installing a vent that connected the kitchen and garage, a setup that could allow harmful fumes to seep into the living space.
  • Also at 4503 Elm St., the company built a retaining wall without getting the required permit and failed to place funds in an escrow account as required by state law.
  • During the project at 5612 McLean Drive in Bethesda, the company violated county building code by improperly installing a stone veneer.
  • The company had entered into two separate contracts before obtaining its building contractor’s license.
  • JRK failed to notify the county’s consumer protection office about two separate lawsuits against them alleging unsuitable performance.

The company was also accused of improperly diverting materials from one project to another. A property owner at 5612 McLean Drive testified that board shingles, slate and stone pavers they’d bought for their home went missing and charged JRK with taking them for a different project. The board of registration wrote in its order that JRK had likely removed the materials but did not have enough evidence of the wrongdoing to revoke the company’s license on those grounds.

“There is ample evidence, as outlined above, supporting this decision without relying on the missing materials issue,” the board wrote in its order.

While JRK has lost its building contractor’s license and can no longer construct new homes from the ground-up, the company still has an active state home improvement license. Friedman said the state license enables to company to take on renovation or addition projects.

The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services has also filed civil citations against JRK for improperly constructing stone veneer, failing to obtain the permit for the retaining wall and improperly installing a structural beam in a third house, according to the news release.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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