A number of homeowners who benefited from the territory’s emergency home repair program are reportedly being served construction liens on their homes, a last-ditch effort by subcontractors desperate for compensation.
V.I. Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith told The Daily News that, so far, two homeowners have come forward and complained of liens from North Carolina-based subcontractor, T.J. Sutton Enterprises.
The company is subcontracted to Citadel, which falls under AECOM, the prime contractor involved with the federally funded Emergency Home Repair V.I. program, which ended in April.
Griffith said T.J. Sutton has not been paid because Citadel’s construction invoices were not meeting AECOM’s standards. As a result, only a small percentage of invoices were advanced to the Housing Finance Authority for billing.
Griffith labeled the issue a “payment dispute” with AECOM, and said he was “deeply disappointed” that T.J Sutton would resort to liens on homeowners to resolve the matter.
“I would consider it an intolerable tactic being used against hurricane survivors who do not owe these subcontractors any money whatsoever,” Griffith said. “[The subcontractor] knows that AECOM is responsible for paying the people they hire. This matter is really a business dispute between a prime contractor and its subcontractor.”
AECOM spokesman Michael Chee sent The Daily News a written statement on the matter Thursday:
“AECOM is deeply concerned to learn that a subcontractor has placed liens on properties who were part of the Emergency Home Repair V.I. program. We have instructed [Citadel] to take action to ensure these liens are discharged pursuant to their contractual obligations. [Citadel] has confirmed the liens were improperly placed and is working to have them removed over the next 30 days.”
Senate Majority Leader Marvin Blyden, who serves as chairman of the Senate Housing, Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, told The Daily News that he was “surprised” by the subcontractor’s actions, given that the late payments have “nothing to do with the homeowner.”
“This is a federal program,” Blyden said. “[Homeowners] didn’t sign any contract to pay for anything. They should not be held hostage or have to worry about any type of letter saying a lien was placed on their property.”
To that end, Blyden said he has submitted legislation to protect homeowners.
This proposed bill will ensure that no construction lien can be placed on a home for work performed under programs in which the homeowner is not the party responsible for payment of the prime contractor or subcontractors.
“With this legislation, I hope to bring some degree of justice and peace of mind for many homeowners who have participated in the Emergency Home Repair Program,” Blyden said.
Any homeowner who has received such a notice is advised to immediately call the Housing Finance Authority at 340-777-4432.
More information on the legislation can be found by contacting Blyden’s office at 340-693-3567.