SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — Jeanette Ford became a first-time home buyer last summer. Her Southaven home needed a lot of work, so she called someone recommended by a friend: Larry Harris with Trademark Homes.
In order to get the job, she had to get approval from her lender. She passed on a provided copy of his Mississippi residential builders license, which is required for home remodeling jobs worth more than $10,000.
“It was the first week in August he started doing the renovations. We started demo then add-ons started shortly after that,” Ford said.
It didn’t take long for problems to start, including with the sub-contractors.
“They’ve been complaining about not being paid so they’re not finishing the job," she said. “A couple weeks, a week go by and no one be up here working on the home.”
And nearly six months later, the work still hadn't finished.
“The floor’s coming up here,” she said.
Then, there was the dumpster.
When we spoke with Harris about it at his Byhalia home, he made a suspicious comment.
“I’m just glad this whole conversation is pretty much over a dumpster, pretty much. So we label this as a dumpster issue and not a contracting building issue. It’s a dumpster issue," he said.
The Problem Solvers got suspicious because we’d already tried to verify Harris’s residential building license with the Mississippi Board of Contractors.
Neither his name nor his company "Trademark Properties" yielded any results.
The Problem Solvers asked Harris why the board didn't have any record of him having a license.
“We got a license. We are a licensed contracting company. We always been a licensed contracting company," he said. “I don’t believe that because we can provide that information.”
He never sent anything to follow up.
But remember, he gave Ford a copy of a license when she first got her loan last summer. The document has the Mississippi state seal, his company name "Trademark Properties," a license number and even an insurance policy, with an expiration date of January 16, 2020.
Since the Problem Solvers couldn’t substantiate it online, we sent it to Charles Sharman with the Mississippi Board of Contractors.
“It kinda freaked me out when you sent me that," Sharman said from his office in Jackson.
According to Sharman, the license is a forged document. He said it prompted officials to jump start their investigation into Harris and Trademark Properties, which had already began due to a complaint filed by Ford.
“Compared to other ones we’ve seen, that was a very good forgery. I was shocked. To me, it put a little more urgency," he said.
What’s more, the insurance company told Ford they cancelled Trademark’s policy last August, leaving customers like her at risk.
“We’re super glad you got it and I’m super excited that maybe this will get out to the public to be aware of," Sharman said.
And even though Harris fulfilled his promise to remove the dumpster, his promise about the renovations never happened.
“We’ll be done this week," he said at his home.
“He’ll tell me we just need another week. He been telling me that since September," Ford said.
It’s why she’s now getting a lawyer and doing all she can to warn others.
During the Problem Solvers' reporting on this story, we also found another former customer of Larry Harris and Trademark Properties. His experience had a lot of similarities to Ford’s. He said his project was supposed to take eight months, but ended up taking 18. He said subcontractors also complained about not getting paid.