Sunday, August 14, 2022

Settlement: Idaho company blocked from gouging $100k in Florence repairs from Hampstead residents

A fallen tree on a house in Piney Acres just southeast of the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus, Saturday, September 15, 2018. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
A fallen tree caused extensive water damage inside a Wilmington home after Hurricane Florence. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)

RALEIGH — Two years after Hurricane Florence caused widespread flooding across the Cape Fear region, the state’s attorney general has blocked an attempt by an out-of-state water remediation company to collect nearly $100,000 from a group of Hampstead condominium owners for flood damage repairs.

Attorney General Josh Stein has reached a $100,000 settlement with an Idaho disaster restoration company over complaints that it overcharged property owners at Vista Cove Condominiums in Hampstead for water damage cleanup work after the storm, according to a statement issued by his office Thursday afternoon. The investigation into Servpro of Boise was launched in 2019.

The slow-moving Category 1 hurricane hovered over the county for several days in September of 2018, causing major flooding to homes along the Black River and Cape Fear River as the rivers began to crest, as well as areas along the coast.

“I’m pleased that my office was able to reach a settlement that prevents this company from imposing any further financial harm to hardworking North Carolinians who were trying to repair their homes after Hurricane Florence,” Stein said.

Terms of the settlement include the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Servpro of Boise against the Vista Cove residents, cancelling all of their outstanding balances that totaled more than $100,000. The company is also prohibited from engaging in any price gouging activities in the future, actions that violate the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Servpro had filed a lien action against the residents seeking nearly $100,000, according to Stein’s office. The attorney general began investigating the storm remediation company after it received complaints that it was overcharging the condominium residents for water damage cleanup services. 

After the 2018 hurricane season, which included Hurricanes Florence and Michael, Stein has brought seven lawsuits against 22 defendants under the state’s price gouging statute. Among the eight judgments he obtained, a $274,000 settlement against a Georgia tree company was the largest price gouging settlement in the history of the attorney general’s office. The case involved Georgia Tree Company, LLC charging excessive prices for tree removal to Onslow County residents after Florence. 

The settlement agreement with Servpro was signed by representatives of both parties on August 5.

“Servpro of Boise shall have no right to payment on, or to collect upon, such balances, including their associated fees, charges, and interest,” the settlement reads. “Upon execution of this Agreement, Servpro of Boise shall permanently refrain from any action to collect upon the balances alleged in the [lien action] lawsuit.

The lawsuit, Boise Disaster Services, LLC v. Meadows et al., was filed in the Pender County Superior Court.

Read the settlement agreement below:

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