ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Residents across three counties of Northwest Florida have filed more than 50 complaints against a Pensacola contractor. The complaints were filed after residents claimed Matthew Banks of Banks Construction took their money without completing the project.
Gulf Breeze resident Jennifer Anderson took matters into her own hands after she paid Banks $40,000 for work on her house. In the span of 13 months, she said work never begun with over 10 to 15 different start dates.
“I finally posted a nondescript post on several social media sites,” said Anderson. “From there, I met two other local victims and began to scour through the people who reached out, old permits, notices of commencement, lawsuits, legal filings and identified over 50 other victims with over $3 million in deposits for no or minimal work done in three years.”
Anderson said her goal now is to stop him before he can take advantage of anyone else in the area.
“Matt Banks has impacted us financially by taking our $40,000 savings and providing no work and materials after more than 18 months; when we learned we were not alone and learned there are so many much worse off than we are – displaced families, families who haven’t lived together in over two years, we decided we wanted him stopped more than we wanted just our restitution.”
In mid-June 2020, Jennifer Stone had a similar situation. When Stone wanted work done on their home, she contacted Banks. The total cost for the remodel of their vacant residence was $63,380. When Stone’s remodel was supposed to begin, Hurricane Sally made landfall, pushing the start date back.
“Mr. Banks has made numerous promises, numerous written promises to me over the years,” said Stone. “It’s a systematic approach he – and I said years because this has been going on for years. Mr. Banks makes false pretenses of work that’s going to be done in the future. He tells you he’s going to finish your house. He’s going to do it on a certain date. He’s going to be there. Just last week I was told by three emails, two or three emails, that an employee would be by my house last Friday to assess my house. Nobody showed up. Never saw them.”
Now, Stone said Banks has $70,000 of her money.
“He was supposed to repair — as the charges say, we gave him a 50% deposit,” said Stone. “The first check we gave him was June 26, 2020. They began work Oct. 7. During that week, which was the first week of the job, Matt and I negotiated on having the windows replaced in our house. We wanted hurricane windows because I’m old and I don’t want to be worrying about it. So, we gave him a check for $13,700. That second invoice for windows was $27,400. We gave him another 50% deposit, $13,700. Mr. Banks did not order those windows until January. So, he had the money for three or four months before he ordered the supplies needed.”
With a gutted house, Stone said all she wants is for her house to be done.
“My whole object is getting my house done. I mean, I’m not trying to be unreasonable, but two years and we don’t have one room completed, not one room,” said Stone. “My husband and I have started putting the house back together because we don’t know when Banks Construction or if Banks Construction is going to show back up at our house. It’s been two years. It’s disheartening. I’m living in one room, one room the size of a hotel room for going on nine months. I love my husband to death, but, you know, we need a little space. And I bought this house so that I would have space, but it’s not being put back together.”
The last day of work done on Stone’s house was March 11.
Several attempts from WKRG News 5 to contact Banks were not answered, but Banks did respond to Stone in an Escambia County Competency Board meeting on June 1, 2022.
“Ms. Stone is right on a lot of things she said. As far as on her project, we’re still under contract. If she would like to remove us, I understand that. As far as the accounting that was done, when I came to this initial complaint here and in reference to the four people here, the accounting that was done and all those things done was done by my company, but it wasn’t done with me. And the people that did do that are no longer here. Those people she stated that gave her those dates, did the accounting, did all of that, that wasn’t by me personally, but I’m the owner so I take responsibility for that. As far as her project taking long and not getting done, absolutely. When I signed hers and many others, I had a full stay. I was rocking and rolling. It hit the fan. I went down. So, I’m here trying to get it back right. I’m not going to make any excuses, but that’s where I’m at. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
On Aug. 3, 2022, at another CCB meeting, four more complaints were up for discussion against Banks. Trevor Gehman alleged that Banks failed to commence contracted work on a provided start date, failed to obtain permitting for contracted work and failed to complete contracted work by the projected end date.
Gehman said the total cost of the project, provided by Banks, would be $42,500, for a sunroom addition. Gehman paid a 35% deposit of $14,875 and agreed to pay an additional 15% at work commencement. He stated that work did not begin until March 16, 2022, and on that date demolition of the aluminum roof of the existing patio was performed.
On April 28, Gehman notified Banks, via email, that he was terminating his contract with banks, citing, “failure to perform, consistent delays, lack of communication and general mismanagement.”
Below is the email conversation between Gehman and Banks Construction Production Manager, Alanna Gay. The email was recorded during a CCB meeting:
Trevor Gehman: I’m notifying you that I’m terminating our contract for failure to perform. I’m fed up with the consistent delays, lack of communication and general mismanagement. I have no confidence in your ability to complete this project in the timeframe that was promised.
I have put a stop payment on the check for my second installment of $6,375.
I am demanding a refund of the downpayment of $14,875, minus the cost of work already performed which can be documented with receipts. I will not pay for the concrete pour which you failed to properly oversee.
You have 10 days to issue this refund to me.
If you can come to terms on an appropriate refund amount and you issue that amount to me within 10 days – by Monday, May 9, 2022 – then we can avoid mediation in small claims court.
Alanna Gay: We have considered your request to terminate the contract for the addition of your home and we realize that things are behind schedule a bit later than we had hoped.
Adding an addition to an existing house is a time-consuming process but Banks Construction stands ready, willing and able to promptly move forward on this project to complete the work as efficiently as possible.
Is there anyway that we can schedule a day. We can have some people from the company come meet and look over your slab?
This will allow us to come up with a solution such as, getting you a new date to get a whole new slab poured as soon as possible and demo the existing slab.
We are definitely willing to help and fix this problem for you. Please just let us know where you would like for us to go from here.
Trevor Gehman: Unfortunately, I have no confidence in your ability to complete this project on schedule. I was very clear with Matthew last fall that the timeline for this project was a concern, and it only made sense if it could be completed in five to six months. You’ve placed me in a difficult and frustrating situation.
You can propose a refund amount to me that you think is fair based on work already performed and I will consider it. Failing that, we’ll go to mediation in small claims court and settle things there.
If we can come to an agreeable amount and I received that refund before May 9, we can avoid small claims court. Even though I’m beyond frustrated, if we can avoid small claims court, I’m also willing to not write any online reviews about Banks Construction and this experience.
The CCB reported that a review of the permitting history for Gehman’s address resulted in no records being found for a sunroom addition permit pulled by Banks.
According to several people, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is currently investigating Banks, but they could not confirm.
More examples of people who paid and did not have a finished project include Jason and Winter Powell of Crestview, paying $90,750 to do work on a fire-damaged garage, the second floor of their home and perform a full house remodel; Timothy and Shawnee Trowbridge of Milton, who, after signing a contract and paying over $90,000 for a full home restoration of their uninhabitable post-Hurricane Sally damaged home, still have an uncompleted project; David and Tracy Bryan of Cantonment paid a 50% deposit of $9,100 to remodel a bathroom; Cindy Fields Cameron of Milton paid 50% of a $64,200 deposit, plus an insurance settlement of $73,000.