It’s the middle of November, and Jesse Messier and Dawn Derusha were supposed to move into their new home back in October.
For the past year and a half, the young couple and their Siberian Husky, Denali, have been living with Messier’s parents while waiting for Worcester-based contracting company Mutual Builders to finish their home in Charlton — a home that originally had a scheduled move-in date of Oct. 10, 2014.
While the dream of home ownership is often fraught with wakeup calls, the fact is Messier and Derusha have waited more than a year to move into their new home. And the process of building their house has been nothing short of a nightmare, they said.
According to Messier’s first purchase-and-sale agreement from June 2014, Mutual Builders said the work would be completed in four to six months.
However, the foundation for the house wasn’t poured until September — one month before their projected move-in date. In other words, it took three months for the foundation to be poured.
After it was poured, National Grid showed up for a routine inspection, as the house is close to power lines. The electric company told Mutual Builders the foundation was poured incorrectly and required the contractor to move the foundation over two feet.
Jay Pelletz, owner of Mutual Builders, tried to hide the mandated fix from his customers, Messier claims, and the contractor did a “bad patch job.”
“It was like a bad 3-D puzzle put together,” Derusha added.
Although the original move-in date was Oct. 10, 2014, the PSA on the house was extended for the eighth time in August because the work was taking so long to complete. The new move-in date on that extension was Sept. 1.
On Thursday, Nov. 12, Messier signed his tenth PSA with Mutual Builders. The couple’s new scheduled move-in date is Monday, Nov. 30.
A person familiar with the transaction told the Sun that Pelletz told Messier this past April that the house would be complete “in two weeks.”
When Pelletz was reached on Wednesday, Nov. 11, he told the Sun that work at the house was “wrapping up right now.” When asked why the work has taken more than 13 months longer than originally planned Pelletz said, “I don’t know. It’s just taken that long.”
When asked to further discuss the situation, Pelletz said, “That’s my comment. That’s my only comment.” Pelletz then said he would call this reporter right back.
A call was not returned to the Sun on Wednesday. Multiple phone calls and emails through Saturday, Nov. 14, went unreturned.
“There are times when I’ve called him [Pelletz] on the hour, every hour. There’s been times when he hasn’t responded in two to three weeks. And when he does, it’s very vague. It’s usually a text message that doesn’t respond to whatever it is I’ve asked him,” Messier said.
Messier, who is enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, has put about $16,000 of his own money into the house already beyond the purchase price. He was approved for a loan from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. With the VA loan, there is no down payment required. However, Messier did put $1,000 down.
Of the $16,000 spent by Messier, $7,000 paid for appliances. The rest of the money went toward upgrades on cabinets, flooring, countertops, light fixtures, etc. Any money that was invested in upgrades went into the pocket of Mutual Builders.
“The flooring that I paid for is already damaged,” Messier said.
Messier travels worldwide year-round for the Air Force and is gone anywhere from three days to several weeks at a time.
“I come home expecting work to be done,” said Messier, “and typically there’s only one thing completed when I return.”
Last week, the couple arrived to see if any progress had been made since the last time they checked out the house. Messier and Derusha have to make unscheduled stops to their unfinished house on a regular basis now to see any work that’s been done because, they say, Pelletz refuses to answer their phone calls.
Each time they visit the house, Derusha and Messier say, they seem to run into one major issue or another. For instance, less than two weeks ago, Messier said he arrived at the house and both garage doors were wide open. The hose in the back of the house was attached and water was running from it. The workers had already gone home for the day.
This past Friday afternoon, Derusha showed up at the house to see if more work had been done. The stove was plugged in, but sawdust covered their new kitchen floor.
And, she said, the deck on the back of the house had been taken apart.
Saturday, Nov. 7, things were even worse, according to the couple. And disgusting.
On their way to IKEA to purchase furniture for their home, the pair stopped by the house to find their bathroom had been used by the workers; the same bathroom that they themselves have yet to be able to use.
To make matters worse, instead of using toilet paper, the workers were using thick, grey, paper hand towels. Although these towels are commonly found at worksites, they’re not made to be flushed down a toilet — especially with a septic tank on the other end.
“Someone duct-taped the toilets shut and then tried to take the tape off so there’s a residue stuck to the side of the toilet now,” Derusha said. “I don’t know why they thought duct tape would be okay to use.”
Finally, Messier recalls the day he showed up at the house only to find a couple touring upstairs. That couple was also waiting for their home to be completed by Mutual Builders. They clearly didn’t expect Messier to arrive at the house and they must have been embarrassed when he overheard them criticizing the home’s color scheme and design.
According to Messier, the contractor denied allowing the people in the home. But what other way would they end up there, Messier wondered.
A local real estate broker familiar with the recent practices of Mutual Builders told the Sun: “As far as disingenuous contractors go, Mr. Pelletz is at the top of my list. It wouldn’t in the least bit surprise me if he [Pelletz] is hoping [Messier] walks away from this sale, and he is hoping he can sell the property at a premium. The only other reason for this taking so long is that it’s possible Mutual Builders is financially strapped.”
Pelletz serves as both the broker and builder on his side of this transaction.
Although they admit that the work is “95 percent done,” there is a list of nearly 30 items that need to be completed in order for Derusha and Messier to move into their house, the said. Among the incomplete items: there are still no front stairs, no lawn, no gravel down for their driveway, there are damaged doorknobs and the light fixture above the kitchen island was not correctly centered — an error that Pelletz refuses to fix, according to the couple.
The only way Pelletz can obtain an occupancy permit for Messier’s home is when the driveway is finished, and the front and back stairs are installed.
Messier is concerned that the Nov. 30 scheduled move-in date will come and go because the driveway isn’t finished. He’s even more concerned that if he does move in before everything is completed, he won’t hear from anyone at Mutual Builders to come finish his home and seed the lawn in the spring.
With no front stairs, appliance deliveries become difficult as well. In fact, a Spencer retailer declined to deliver a refrigerator to the home without them, according to the couple.
As of Friday afternoon, along with the other unfinished projects at the house, the stairs to the second floor needed to be stained, stairs and railings to need to be installed on the deck, and the front door has to be replaced.
A map on Mutual Builders’ website shows the company owns several other building lots in Worcester County.
A subcontractor working for Mutual Builders told the Sun that Pelletz and Mutual Builders are currently building five homes, with 13 more scheduled to be built.
The subcontractor also told the Sun that Jay Pelletz’s father and founder of Mutual Builders, Mel Pelletz, helped Pelletz out with an undisclosed lump sum of money recently, but the workers haven’t been paid.
“The guy is an alright guy, and he’s not trying to screw people out of their money, but I don’t know if it’s mismanagement or what,” said the subcontractor, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of not being paid. “But the money is going somewhere else.”
A real estate broker with knowledge of Messier’s situation said, “I’ve never seen this before. This is an embarrassing transaction. Mr. Pelletz is a real piece of work. It is deceitful. It is a colossal waste of time. All appearances would be that this is completely unimportant to Mr. Pelletz. I would recommend that [Messier] retain legal counsel. He [Messier] has done everything right in this transaction.”
Messier and Derusha said they intend to file a formal complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office on Monday morning.
“Obviously, we want to get into the house after waiting all this time,” said Messier. “Family and friends have been telling us to file a lawsuit, but I never thought in a million years it would get to that point. With the stress that they’ve put us through, I want to protect us and protect other people. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”