Leticia Suarez wanted to build a guesthouse on her property to rent and help pay for her mortgage.
But instead of reaping the rewards from that effort, she’s now thousands of dollars in debt with a half-finished building where the walls and floors are bulging after the recent rains.
The problem: the construction company that began the project never finished it after suddenly closing.
Green Nation Direct, with home offices in Reseda, is now attempting to file for bankruptcy although Suarez and other homeowners who say they were swindled by them are trying to stop it.
The Pacoima resident is saddled with a pair of loans totaling $120,000 for a guesthouse that is uninhabitable, apart from her own mortgage.
“They began in September. They worked for about a month and a half. They did three-quarters of the project, but they never finished,” Suarez said.
The walls and roof were put up; the workers even managed to install some light fixtures inside. But there is no electricity or water going into this second house on her property because those permits were never acquired.
Water damage from the recent storms — the workers didn’t close off windows and other exposed areas — has also left the walls and floor misshapen and in need repair.
Now that local municipalities have eased regulations regarding the construction of “granny flats” and garage homes in response to the lack of affordable housing, it has also opened a door for unscrupulous contractors to prey on unsuspecting families.
Company Rep “Talked Beautifully
Suarez said she was connected to Green Nation Direct through a person she knew.
When a company representative showed up at her house, “they talked beautifully” about everything and “they told me I wouldn’t have to pay the loans for a year,” she said.
She figured she would collect rent on the guesthouse during that year and that would help her repay the loans, which came out to $1,100 a month over 20 years.
But after advancing on her project, the workers started to miss work days.
“They would come one day and they wouldn’t show up for four,” she recalled.
Finally, she confronted them and asked what was happening.
“They told me, ‘we’re not getting paid for materials,’” she said.
When Suarez called the offices of Green Nation Direct, they would give her vague answers until they didn’t respond anymore.
She went to the offices and only managed to speak with the secretaries. Then the office closed and Suarez was left in ruin.
“I’m all traumatized; how can they do this at this stage?” she said.
Even worse, she’s already getting charged for the loans they helped her secure, instead of waiting a year to do so, as they had promised.
“How can I pay when they haven’t finished the construction?” she said.
Green Nation Direct didn’t return phone calls or answer emails from the (italics) San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol (italics end). Their Facebook page is still up.
Project Not Done and Facing Lawsuit
Norma Calderon, a resident of the City of San Fernando, was also left with an uncompleted guesthouse. A carport the company was hired to build to replace the one previously standing was never even started.
“This was a major fraud,” Calderon laments.
Her relationship with Green Nation Direct began when a salesman knocked on her door and told her the government was giving money to convert garages.
She told him her garage was fine, but she mentioned that she wanted to expand a carport she had recently installed.
The salesman also said that she had enough room in her backyard for a guesthouse.
The total budget for the projects: $117,000. She could make monthly payments of $1,100 for 20 years. That bill would be separate from her current mortgage.
Calderon and hesitated at the beginning, but then accepted, figuring her daughter could live in the guesthouse.
The company began work on the project in April 2018 and after completing about 85 percent of the project, the workers started to miss work days.
When Calderon threatened to call the media and denounce them publicly, she said they finished most of it.
Her husband Pedro Salamanca still had to put stucco on walls and do other details on the building. The guesthouse still has no electricity.
Calderdon said the workers demolished the previous carport she had built six months before at a cost of $12,000 — which only covered one car — but they never built the expanded one.
And the separate bill for the loan was actually included in her escrow, increasing her mortgage payment to about $5,000 a month, impossible for her to pay.
Also infuriating was the workers using and taking some of her husband’s tools, she said.
To top it all off, one worker — who Calderon says worked on the construction without her knowledge, fell and broke his leg — is now suing her.
“We only heard the screams when he fell,” she said.
She discovered that all the permits and documents were put in her name, and not the contractor’s, and claims that her husband’s signature was forged. Some of the paperwork was made for another address, not her house.
“The stress is killing me,” says Calderon, as she relates all this drama. “I can’t even sleep. They did everything wrong, from A to Z.
“We’re lost. We don’t know what to do,” she admits.
Calderon has filed a complaint with the California Licensing Board, and is trying to clear the mess she and dozens of other homeowners are facing.
“We are living a nightmare,” she said.