The deck, which stands 12 feet off the ground, dates to the 1980s. It’s the family’s only egress from the house to the yard without going through the garage or the basement.
In May 2014, the couple interviewed seven deck contractors, and they chose Restore The Shore Contracting of Tinton Falls.
“We intentionally did not hire the lowest priced contractor and thought that Erich Niemann, owner of Restore The Shore Contracting, seemed trustworthy and understood what we were looking for and he had a mid-range bid compared to the others,” Bridgit Mazza said.
A year later, the deck still isn’t finished.
The couple signed a contract Aug. 15, 2014, which said work would start around Sept. 15 and be completed by Oct. 28. The total cost to remove the old deck, build the new one and remove debris was $25,850, documents show. The first payment of $8,000 was due upon the contract’s signing, then $8,000 when the footings passed inspection, then $7,000 when the deck was completed but before the railings were installed. The final payment would be due when the job was done.
Work started on Oct. 1, when the old deck was knocked down.
After that, Mazza said, work was done only intermittently. They gave the company a $316 check for permits on Oct. 16 and a $9,600 check for work and materials on Nov. 14.
But the work stopped by the end of November.
Mazza said the deck was only half finished. She said the frame and flooring was mostly complete, but there were no railings, stairs or finishing work, and a giant pile of garbage sat in the nail-covered yard. Some siding and a gutter were removed and never replaced, causing rainwater to seep into the basement, she said.
“After a week to 10 days of no work, we received a voicemail asking for a payment of $7,000 in order to proceed so that they could purchase the railings,” she said.
That bill was paid on Dec. 16, records show, and Mazza said she was told the job would be done before Christmas Eve.
No one showed up for at least two weeks, she said. When the couple asked about the delay, the company said it was having difficulty getting the railings — something Mazza said she heard several times before.
“Then we were finally told that it was too cold to work outside,” Mazza said. “We grudgingly accepted, knowing that it would be another three months of no access to our yard and a complete disaster on our lawn and driveway.”
The wait wasn’t easy for the young family. Their children were 3 and 1, and for safety, the Mazzas had to barricade the sliding glass door from being opened from the inside. They also couldn’t let the kids play in the trash-strewn yard.
On Jan. 8, 2015, Mazza received an email saying the company found the railing components, which they’d have within the week. Still, they’d have to wait for warmer weather.
The Mazzas finally threatened legal action, and owner Erich Neimann responded via email on May 5.
Neimann apologized, saying the order was misplaced at the supply yard.
“I promise we will have this done for you within the next 2 1/2 weeks,” Neimann wrote.
The Mazzas were suspicious, so they called the supplier, which said the order had just been placed — for the first time — and it would take about two weeks for delivery.
“So Erich obviously was lying about (i) securing the parts in January, (ii) that the shipment was ‘misplaced’ and (iii) that the parts would be delivered within a week,” Mazza said.
Materials were dropped at the Mazza home on June 11 by a different employee, who also hauled away the trash that had been covering the lawn for eight months.
They thought work would resume, but no one returned to the home.
Mazza said they called the company, and the receptionist said the initial installation crew wasn’t returning the company’s calls so they were looking for a new team.
They found a new team — one guy — who came to the home on June 19, Mazza said. Work restarted, and the installer said a walkthrough with the town inspector would be around June 24.
“This is when we learned that the inspector actually failed our frame back in late November/early December,” Mazza said. “This was the first time that we had even heard that an inspector had been to our house, let alone that the frame had failed. It appears that the installation crew failed their inspection, packed up and left, never to return.”
The new guy kept working, but stopped when he said some parts were missing. He said they’d arrive in two days. Then three days. Then four days, Mazza said.
So they contacted the supply house again.
The supply company said it had the parts, Mazza said she was told, but Erich Neimann’s check bounced.
Mazza said the installer denied it, but said that Neimann put a stop on the check because some parts were missing.
Mazza contacted the supplier again. It said the check was returned for insufficient funds, and that if a stop had been put on the check, the bank would have returned the check with a “stop order” stamp.
After the July 4 weekend, Mazza said, she was told the money issues would be resolved in less than two weeks. And, they learned the installer needed another order for $1,580 for the anchors for the deck railings.
The Mazzas spent the rest of July leaving messages for Neimann almost daily, Mazza said, and they continued to send emails, to no avail.
“We are left with no other option but to hire a new contractor to fix this situation and file a lawsuit against Erich,” she said.
The Mazzas had another contractor review the job, and the news wasn’t encouraging.
In addition to the unfinished work, Mazza said she was told many items needed fixing.
“A lot of posts are crooked,” she said. “The deck also moves side to side. There’s a lot more movement for the deck than there should be, especially considering it’s 12 feet off the ground.”
She said the new contractor reported they needed to put in new support beams to prevent the movement, and the main supports of the deck are 10-inch but they should have been 12-inch.
There were also aesthetic issues, such as rough poles and marks from slipped drills.
Before heading to court, the Mazzas contacted Bamboozled.
RESTORE THE SHORE’S REP
Bamboozled reviewed the contract and a long series of emails between the family and the company.
We also did a public records search.
There are five corporations registered to Erich Neimann: Restore The Store Contracting, Neimann General Contractor Builder, Neimann General Contractor/Builder, Neimann Rapkowicz General Contractors and Builders, and Neimann Contracting. Neimann Contracting also has two associated names: NJ Mr. Fixit, and NJ Customer Finished Basements and Decks.
Restore the Shore and Neimann General Contractor/Builder both have active Home Improvement Contractor registrations with the state.
A public records search found 15 lawsuits against Neimann and his companies. Six resulted in judgments, with one against Restore The Shore, two against Niemann General Contractor and three against Niemann personally.
Neimann’s companies have 11 complaints filed against them with Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau lists two complaints against Restore The Store, saying it believes the company to be out of business.
We reached out to Erich Neimann at the same time that the Mazzas received an email from Restore The Shore’s foreman. “Richard A.” apologized for the delays, and said Neimann asked him to dig into the paperwork to see what went wrong.
“After days of sifting threw (sic.) the original bid proposal, changes and material quotes, it has become evident that we were miss quoted on the cable railings, and components,” he wrote. “Under normal circumstances we would eat the loss. We are not in a financial position to do that at this point in time.”
Richard A. said the remaining balance on materials is approximately $5,100, and the balance on the contract was $2,850. He said if the Mazzas would pay the balance, they’d send the installer back to finish the job.
Mazza plans to speak to her attorney before answering the email. She said she will also file a complaint with Consumer Affairs.
Erich Neimann hasn’t answered our many phone messages or emails, nor did he respond to fill-in forms we completed on two company web sites.
“We wouldn’t let these guys come back to our house with a ten-foot pole, even if they did it for free at this point,” Mazza said.
We’ll let you know what happens.
Staff researcher Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com.