Custom Home Builder Based in Bethesda Appeals License Revocation

Custom Home Builder Based in Bethesda Appeals License Revocation

Several unhappy clients had lodged complaints against JRK Contractor

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A home under construction by JRK Contractor

Via Eric Friedman

A Bethesda custom homebuilder is contesting Montgomery County’s recent decision to strip its contractor’s license, arguing company representatives were not properly notified of proceedings against them.

JRK Contractor LLC last month lodged appeals with the Montgomery County Board of Appeals and in Montgomery County Circuit Court and filed a motion for reconsideration with the county consumer protection office’s board of registration, which revoked the license.

The county took action against JRK after investigating complaints from several homeowners who alleged the contractors violated county and state law, forged a property owner’s signature and did shoddy construction work on projects in Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

The company’s owners, Fernando Guedes Jr. and Fernando Guedes Sr., deny the allegations and claim they weren’t given an opportunity to defend themselves because they were never informed of a public hearing on the allegations.

Eric Friedman, the county’s consumer protection director, called the Guedes’ claim “utter nonsense” and has provided documentation corroborating that the company was alerted of the hearing.

JRK has held a building contractor’s license in the county since April 9, 2015, and has worked on six home construction projects since then. Homeowners in three of those cases—for projects at 4503 Elm St. in Chevy Chase and 5608 and 5612 McLean Drive in Bethesda—have leveled accusations against the company, claiming numerous violations of county and state code.

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 projected to be in June 2017, but Williams said the home was still not habitable as of the May 18 hearing.

Guedes Jr. has denied many of the allegations, including that JRK representatives forged a homeowner’s signature on a building permit application for construction of a home at 5608 McLean Drive in Bethesda. He said numerous change orders on Williams’ and Coyne’s home delayed its completion.

Defending his company against allegations of poor workmanship, he noted that 4503 Elm St. and 5608 McLean Drive passed their final county inspections. It wasn’t until a subsequent revisit that county inspectors issued JRK notices of violation for failing to comply with county construction code at 4503 Elm, he said.

Diane Schwartz Jones, the county’s director of permitting services, confirmed that these two homes did pass final inspection. But after a homeowner at 4503 Elm submitted a complaint, a Department of Permitting Services supervisor and manager returned to the property where they found “many issues that were of poor workmanship.” Most of the problems were not a violation of the building code, she wrote, but the inspectors did find two infractions related to a retaining wall that had been constructed without a permit and “post inspection modifications to duct work in the garage.”

Following the re-inspection, the permitting services department prepared an order directing JRK to have an engineer review construction of the wall, to submit an engineering report on the design and necessary repairs and to obtain a permit for the wall and make any required repairs. The company hasn’t complied with the abatement order, and DPS has “sent the County Attorney’s Office a petition for a show cause hearing to obtain compliance,” she wrote.

Schwartz Jones said 5608 McLean did pass final inspection, and DPS has not been called out to re-inspect the home. DPS inspectors were called out to 5612 McLean with the consumer protection office while the home was still under construction. The inspection determined the stone veneer on the home had been installed improperly, and JRK was ordered to remove and reinstall the stone correctly, Schwartz Jones reported. DPS “did take JRK to court and received a guilty plea, with a fine.”

However, because the homeowners in that case decided to complete construction on their own, no abatement was necessary.

Guedes Jr. acknowledges that his company has made mistakes, as all contractors do, such as improperly installing the stone veneer, but he said JRK takes ownership of its errors.

“We are not a perfect builder. We do not claim to be a perfect builder. We are human, but we are honest,” he said.

He believes the county cracked down on him because of the prominence of one of the complainants, NBC4 weatherman Doug Kammerer, who contracted with JRK for the home at 4503 Elm. Guedes Jr. also asserts that his dissatisfied clients were acquaintances and influenced each other to lodge complaints against him.

Kammerer acknowledged he does know one other complainant, whom he’d referred to JRK before he began to have problems with the company. He had no relationship with the homeowners in the third case, he said.

In response to Guedes Jr.’s claim that Kammerer’s prominence is a factor, the weatherman said officials did not begin investigating JRK until others also flagged problems.

“The county did not take the action that we were hoping for until the third complaint was filed by someone,” he said.

JRK representatives did not show up for a hearing on the complaints and did not challenge the license revocation until after the window for making appeals had already closed.

The county and the company’s attorney are currently corresponding about JRK’s contention that the Guedeses were not given proper notice.

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

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