Bellaire builder battle brings bad blood to quiet streets

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Vincent Summa hired RG Homes to build his family's five bedroom, eight bathroom home in the heart of Bellaire.

When he started building 14 months ago, Summa couldn't wait to move in.

He's still waiting, but now the banners on the side of his unfinished home suggest it's been a tough road. The banners advertise Summa's website, which details his side of a long process that has now become a very public dispute over the home's construction.

"We are here to make sure this doesn't happen to others going forward," Summa told ABC13's Ted Oberg.

During our interview, Summa was joined by Jim Rowe who claims to be in a similar battle with the same builder.

"Every time we get a new inspection, we find new problems," he said.

Rowe has signs up outside his equally impressive and still unfinished Bellaire home. Several read "Fix my home." Another "Nightmare on Elm Street." The largest on his front lawn shows surveillance photos and offers $1,000 reward for the idenfitification of an alleged thief who took signs from Rowe's front lawn.

Three days ago Rowe forwarded surveillance video of someone taking his signs down. That person left them piled in his front yard.

Someone took Summa's banners of the side of his house, too.

In Bellaire, the signs, surveillance and the websites detailing the builder battle are evidence of a very public fight over very pricey and usually private issues.

"Thankfully it's exceedingly rare," Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg told ABC13. "I've never seen anything like it."

At the heart of his complaint, Vincent Summa tells us, "He is billing me for his own mistakes."

In response to the public battle, RG Homes put up its own signs and websites. On its sites, RG Homes says it offered the Summas credits for some items needing repair, but RG claims the Summas want credits where no mistakes were made. Summa eventually fired RG and hired new contractors.

The Summas and RG Homes are currently in court against one another.

Rowe disputes unexplained cost increases in his home and questions RG Homes' workmanship which Rowe and his wife say led to leaks and mold in home. His wife Bella told ABC13, "I am scared to go back home."

The couple is currently living elsewhere.

On its website dedicated to Rowe's complaint, RG Homes calls Rowe's signs and complaints "a personal crusade." RG says Rowe moved in before the house was ready and that Rowe refuses to allow the company to make repairs.

Rowe and Summa are among the RG Homes customers ABC13 met who complained about the builder. Many of them felt the city of Bellaire hasn't done enough to protect them, suggesting to ABC13 that more should be done by the city in response to their complaints.

Bellaire Mayor Andrew Friedberg told us, "The city doesn't tell residents what builders to use. We can only enforce basic things under the building code."

That is mostly safety issues.

Friedberg says there is no mechanism for the city to examine quality or financial issues. The city's attorney reviewed Bellaire rules, but did not recommend any changes.

As the public dispute continues, the company says it has several satisfied customers and is currently building 9 homes with no issues. They cannot count the Rowes and Summas among them. While the signs may disappear from front lawns, the arguments is not going away soon.
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