Chicago contractor keeps building despite complaints
He goes by at least two names and does business under at least four.
Yet home improvement contractor Deyan Vuksanovic, who has an F rating on Angie's List, by any name remains a magnet for customer and official complaints.
According to court documents, contractor Deyan Vuksanovic uses several personal and business names:
- Deyan Wolfson
- Kitchen and Bathroom Arts
- K&B Arts
- KB ArtsDesign Home Deluxe
Named among the city's worst contractors in the January 2010 edition of Angie's List Magazine, he continues to come under fire.
In 2010 alone, Vuksanovic has faced several official actions:
- The Chicago Department of Buildings found him liable on multiple counts of making false statements on building permit applications and fined him $5,000. For example, he repeatedly listed the name and company name of a licensed electrician on his building permits, although that person and his company didn't work on the project.
- The city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has issued multiple citations against Vuksanovic since 2003.
- The Chicago Better Business Bureau referred his case to its national office because he continues to use the "BBB Accredited" logo on his website without permission.
- The Illinois Secretary of State dissolved his corporation because he didn't pay the annual filing fee.
- His bankruptcy, initially granted in October 2009, was overturned in January.
Through it all, Vuksanovic's showroom has remained open for business in the upscale Lake Point Tower Condominium on Lake Shore Drive.
Dr. Krystyna Kiel, who didn't become an Angie's List member until this year, hired him in January 2009 to remodel the bathroom in her Lake Point Tower condominium. The showroom - and references from people whose projects were still in progress - swayed her to hire him.
"They have a showroom that really looks pretty nice," she says. "I think this is how many people in my building have gotten taken in."
The job was supposed to take one month. One year and $30,000 later, the project remained unfinished. She and her husband completed it themselves with the help of highly rated Closets by Design.
Kiel says she has hired her share of bad contractors, but Vuksanovic tops the list. "I think this has been the sleaziest of all of it," she says. "That's what he is. He is sleazy." She says he talked a lot, never delivered a design on paper and routinely deviated from her instructions. She describes his work as shoddy.
Her new tub is too big for the space and extends to the toilet. He installed a glass wall and body jets in the shower, but the wall wasn't long enough to block the spray. Kiel says the grout peeled off and her husband regrouted all the tile himself and sealed it, as well as replacing the glass wall in the shower with a traditional shower curtain.
She says Vuksanovic agreed to pay for the work by Closets by Design as well as her husband's labor and materials. When she gave him the bill, he instead offered her a discount on a kitchen remodel.
Vuksanovic confirms he is still in business as Kitchen and Bathroom Arts, and says he is in good standing with both the city and the state. "I got some monies and I paid," he says. "I'm back in good graces."
He denies being found liable on multiple counts of violating city ordinances, and he dismisses as groundless the complaints levied against him by Angie's List members and other customers.
According to documents released by the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Vuksanovic was found to have repeatedly violated city ordinances:
- The agency issued 33 citations against him in June that range from operating without a home repair license to failing to issue a refund.
- Two citations from May accuse Vuksanovic of obstructing the department's investigation by failing to respond to a 30-day notice to produce information.
- In 2008, he was found liable on 42 violations of city contracting and business codes, and ordered to pay $19,540 in penalties. In 2003, he was found liable on similar violations.
"There are quite a few of these people who are predators against me personally and my business and wishing me ill," Vuksanovic says. "They are looking at any possibility to prevent me from doing business and making a living.
"I am working out the situation with the BBB," he adds.
Tom Joyce of the Chicago BBB, however, says if Vuksanovic doesn't remove the logo he could ultimately face a trademark infringement lawsuit.
A judge overturned Vuksanovic's bankruptcy after receiving a petition from former Angie's List member Dr. Kevin Hunt, who alleged that Vuksanovic incurred debt as a result of fraud, false pretenses and false representations, including signing all contracts as "Wolfson," a name "he made up," according to court records.
Hunt alleges he paid upfront for high-end appliances that were never delivered and solid cherry wood cabinets that Vuksanovic substituted with laminated cabinets, according to court documents. Hunt could not be reached for comment.
The city of Chicago is working to revoke his license, says Bill McCaffrey, director of public affairs for the Department of Buildings. "He does have a [general contractor] license, but we are moving toward revoking it," McCaffrey says. "We can't just turn his license off. There has to be due process."
A spokeswoman for the Illinois Attorney General's office declined to confirm or deny whether it was investigating Vuksanovic or his companies.
As for his state business registration, Robert Durchholz of the Illinois Secretary of State's office, says he can continue doing business as a sole proprietorship, but he would either need to use his own name or register his business name with Cook County.
The county has no business registration under Vuksanovic, Wolfson or any of his known business names.
Hunt's attorney, Lori Klingman, says Vuksanovic's bankruptcy filing claimed debts of $200,000 and a business value of zero. She subpoenaed his bank records and says she found $2.5 million in receipts in the year preceding his bankruptcy and the first six months after filing.
In September, her client won a $132,000 civil judgment against Vuksanovic and $10,000 in punitive damages on numerous violations of the state Home Repair and Remodeling Act.
Vuksanovic says he has many happy customers, which he claims are represented by several photos of remodeling projects that he sent to Angie's List Magazine. When asked repeatedly for customer names, he declined to provide them and instead responded in an e-mail:
"You serve the injustice, lies and rich man inquisition against honest, good and hard working people! My photos should clearly show you the truth about my quality of work in every possible way! You are choosing to ignore it, so be it, and know that your magazine "Angie's List" is a neo Nazi publication!"