OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — After raising their boys and sending them off to college, Mitchell and Shari Blank decided to splurge on themselves, and renovate their Overland Park home of 27 years.
But, almost 18 months after they hired a contractor, their master bathroom remains an empty shell.
It's a saga the couple says began in early March 2020, when they signed a contract with Rollin Shuck, of R Professional Services, whose wife worked with Mitchell.
"That's also what made us feel more comfortable, was the connection we had through his work," Shari Blank explained
They wrote a check for $13,500, money they say was required to purchase supplies for the master bathroom upstairs.
Then, an unrelated leak in the kitchen damaged the basement ceiling and revealed mold in the walls, changing the contractor's focus.
"It flipped the project from starting upstairs to starting on the main level," Shari Blank said.
The main level work included remodeling the kitchen, updating the fireplace, pulling up carpet and installing hardwood in the living room and dining room.
Initially, the Blanks were pleased with the progress on the first floor. As the months passed, they wrote 17 more checks, totaling $71,342.38.
But then, last fall, their contractor suffered an accident on another job site, bringing their plans to a screeching halt.
"He did have a massive injury, he broke his leg and ankle in eight places, numerous surgeries, it was a big deal," Shari Blank admitted.
While Shuck healed, they tried to work around the missing master bathroom for months.
"We don't have vanities, we don't have drawers, we don't have cabinets to put these things into, we live out of these boxes," Mitchell Blank told KSHB 41 News while pointing to boxes filled with toiletries on the floor of the unfinished bathroom.
As for the old cabinets and vanity that had been in the master bath, that debris was parked in their garage.
There were other issues inside too. From the stairs and upper level awaiting carpeting previously paid for, to the master bedroom scheduled to be painted, all the way down to the basement.
"There's still work to be done, holes in the ceiling, the whole ceiling has to be redone," Mitchell Blank said.
So, when Shuck returned finally returned later that spring, the Blanks were hopeful he would complete those tasks.
Instead, he told them he needed almost $18,000 more, including roughly $9,500 to cover COVID-19 cost increases for materials.
Some of these materials the family thought he'd already purchased, especially for the master bathroom.
"I said, 'But we still have all the cabinets, the tile, we were told the tile has been at the tile place for over a year.' And he said, 'We have nothing,'" Shari Blank said. "And I verbally said, he's fired. I said if he ran away with my money, no, he's fired. I want my money back, he's done,"
Based on the money they'd already spent and the work that was left unfinished, they sent Shuck a formal termination letter, asking him for a refund of $23,106.02.
They say they never heard from him again, only briefly hearing from his attorney, Donald Whitney, who said a response would be coming, although they claim they never got one.
So, KSHB 41 News reached out to Shuck and his attorney. Although they did not respond to our requests for a sit-down interview, they did provide us with this email allegedly sent to the Blanks, one that Mitchell denies ever receiving.
Shuck's attorney maintains this was never a contract, only an estimate. He also said cost increases for material were beyond his client's control.
But, what was especially shocking to the Blanks once we shared this email with them, Shuck's attorney claims it's the family who actually owes the contractor.
His final bill for the Blanks? $9,936.03, much of that for time and materials he says he didn't have time to calculate before he was terminated.
The family says Shuck made up these numbers, long after he'd last set foot in the house, and well after the last invoice he gave them where he failed to mention any of these additional costs.
Meanwhile, they say they have another more pressing problem.
"We have to figure out a way to have someone come in and finish our house, that's the problem, the main thing being the bathroom!" Shari Blank said.
The Blanks tried filing a police report, reached out to the Attorney General, and got the Johnson County District Attorney involved, hoping to file charges against their contractor.
But, the district attorney says cases like these can fall into a gray area of the law.
In a second part of this story airing Wednesday at 10 p.m. KSHB 41 News why, and what this could mean for you, should you find yourself in a similar situation.