Problems with troubled elevation contractor stretch across Texas
HOUSTON – Channel 2 Investigates continues to uncover new details about a flood contractor who abandoned Houston homeowners.
"This was worse than the actual being flooded, itself," said Houston homeowner Robert Raphael.
Raphael's home flooded during the Memorial Day 2015 storms, the Tax Day storms in 2016. He was approved for a federal grant to elevate his home. As his home sat, waiting to get lifted out of the flood plain, his home flooded yet again in 2017 during Harvey.
Flood victims, like Raphael, are out hundreds of thousands of dollars after paying upfront to elevate their homes out of the flood plain.
Now we've learned the problem has spread across the state.
In Seguin -- one of Texas' oldest towns -- life has an easy way about it.
Waterfront property dots the Guadalupe River and its reservoir, Lake Placid.
Tranquil it may be, though, at times the river has taken a turbulent turn.
"It was like a big toilet bowl flush," said Guadalupe County homeowner Jim Ransdell.
Jim and Debbie Ransdell know about Lake Placid's more unruly side.
They've kept pictures from the last major flood in June of 2010.
"We had three and a half feet inside, a lot of damage," said Debbie Ransdell.
Eight years later, in order to find the Ransdells, best you look up.
Their home has been elevated 20 feet -- but focus in.
"They need to skim coat to fill the holes, said Jim Ransdell.
You'll find the details - the Ransdells say -- lead you straight to what's been their devil.
"If they did finish it was going to be a long time, which it's ended up it has been," said Debbie Ransdell.
The "they" here is a company with a name you've heard before.
Titan Foundations and Elevation, the same company Channel 2 Investigates first told you about, homeowners in Houston hired to elevate their flood-fatigued homes, jobs the company failed to complete or even start.
Titan is at the center of the same controversy in Seguin.
In fact, like many of Titan's customers in Houston, the Ransdell's are recipients of a FEMA grant.
Titan is just one of six elevation companies approved by Guadalupe County to do the job.
That was in 2016, and complaints about the company shortly followed, one year before the city of Houston awarded Titan a bid to lift homes.
In Seguin, Titan lifted the Ransdell's home and installed the steps as well.
That was about it.
But the Ransdells are missing a key addition for which they paid out of pocket.
An elevator is nowhere off the ground.
Debbie Ransdell has had three knee surgeries, uses a lift and was approved for additional grant funds to install the elevator.
That approval, though, came late.
"(It was) $25,755," said Jim.
That meant the Ransdells had to write a check up front.
But the Ransdells say Titan's owner, Bobby Fischer, assured them they'd be reimbursed once the grant money came.
But after Bobby Fischer got the check, "He stopped showing up for quite a while. It was really hard to ever get him to come," said Jim Ransdell.
Debbien Ransdell tried tracking him down. She went as far as posting a "wanted" sign on Facebook.
In Seguin he left behind incomplete homes and elevation equipment tossed about in a lot.
Titan is also accused of walking out on the lease of a home it rented as its office.
The real estate professional who leased Titan the home tells Channel 2 that Titan trashed the place.
The Realtor said Titan stopped paying the bills, including the water bills.
Employees lived in a trailer without any running water.
The Realtor says she went to court and got Titan evicted.
The Ransdells say they've been misled by Guadalupe County, Titan and another company.
"I don't know much about this Absolute Concrete, but he (John Heaner) is on our contract," said Debbie Ransdell.
Like Houston homeowners, the Ransdells say Absolute Concrete and Heaner, the man who Channel 2 Investigates first told you is listed as a co-applicant on the grant, is just as responsible as Bobby Fischer.
The Ransdell's have filed a complaint with the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Office.
Jim and Debbie Ransdell are aware, unlike some of Titan's customer's, at least their home is livable and above ground.
Still, every time Debbie has to climb a step -- 39 total -- with that bad knee, "By the end of the day, my leg is swollen," she said.
The Ransdells are reminded how life along Lake Placid lately hasn't been so chill.
"Well, I just think it's all a joke. I've never seen such disorganization from the very beginning," said Debbie Ransdell.
The Ransdells are waiting for the bonding company that’s providing the grant money for their project to assign a new contractor.
They don’t know when that will happen.
Meanwhile, we can confirm the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Titan and Absolute’s financial paper trail.
Remember, the Houston police continue to do the same.
Channel 2 Investigates spoke briefly with Heaner over the phone. He maintains his innocence. He says he's also out hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was no more than an unpaid employee of Titan.
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