Katherine Madden finally got her childhood home in Redondo Beach remodeled, but she lost it in the process.
Nearly a year after a Times report on the stalled remodel ("No End in Sight," Jan. 6, 2002), she and her estranged husband, Donald, struggled to make it through another bleak holiday season apart barely able to afford rent, let alone presents for their children, Jason, 17, and Jessica, 14.
"You have no idea what I've been through," Katherine Madden said of the remodel gone horribly awry. Work stopped for more than a year due to a legal dispute with their now bankrupt contractor. The ordeal drained the family financially and the couple's 17-year marriage broke up. "Our lives have been really, really ruined."
Shortly after The Times story appeared, Candace Vance Wright, the mother of Jason's girlfriend, staved off foreclosure on the home to give the Maddens time to sell it.
But even that gesture wasn't enough to guarantee a smooth, or speedy, conclusion to the belabored construction: New owners Joanne and Ray Russell sold their El Segundo townhouse after buying the Redondo house in April, assuming they would live in short-term housing for the month or so until the sale closed in late June. They ended up moving into the house in early November, almost five months after it was promised, because of remodeling delays.
Part of the problem: leery contractors. "Because no subcontractors got paid on the first one, nobody wanted to work on it," Joanne Russell said. "It was horrible."
"It's lucky the house was ever finished," said Donald Madden, whose aerospace parts business went belly up during the protracted remodel.
Donald has been selling cars for the last year to pay bills while former stay-at-home mom Katherine juggles two part-time jobs for the city of Redondo Beach and contemplates a third to pay her rent. They have not received a penny of the $158,826 L.A. Superior Court judgment against South Bay Remodeling, whose principal owners filed for bankruptcy protection before the October 2001 settlement.
The Maddens have yet to resolve how much they will receive from their $6,000 share of the contractor's $7,500 bond insurance due to complications related to their separation and outstanding legal fees with attorney David Berschaurer.
When the couple first contacted him they were defending a breach-of-contract suit by South Bay Remodeling. Berschauer said legal fees climbed quickly on that case, reaching about $16,000 even without the nearly four months of pro bono services he logged.
"I really feel sorry for Katherine and Don for what they've been through," Berschauer said. "It's a tough set of circumstances."
The state's attorney general is investigating charges against South Bay Remodeling owners Terry and Marilyn Taylor.
South Bay Remodeling's Torrance showroom has long been closed and the phone disconnected. Efforts to reach the Taylors were unsuccessful.
Donald Madden hasn't given up on uncovering hidden assets of the Taylors but hasn't had much luck so far. "I'm just disappointed, I really am," he said. "We should have gotten a lot more out of this."
"I can't even drive by it," Katherine said of the house her immigrant parents once scrimped and saved to own.
Diane Garrett is a Redondo Beach-based freelance writer.