A family has been left with their home ruined and thousands of dollars out of pocket by a builder targeting struggling Australians.
Zane and Melody Ralph, from Melbourne’s western suburbs, face a glum Christmas after their renovator went missing in action with their cash.
NT Kitchens owner Hiep T Phung was paid $9,000 by the couple in April in what was supposed to be a deposit for him to carry out renovations on their home.
NT Kitchens owner Hiep T Phung has come under fire for failing to complete jobs
While work did commence, it was left incomplete and remains a shambles eight months later.
Ms Ralph described the builder as a ‘Grinch’, whom she had repeatedly tried to contact throughout the year to get the job done.
A litany of text messages sent by Ms Ralph to the builder show how her desperate pleas for help went largely ignored.
When Mr Phung did respond, he told the family lies about when he would attend their home and then made up excuses about why he hadn’t arrived.
‘We’ve paid nearly $9,000 for this work to be completed. We paid every time he requested. No questions asked. We took it in good faith that he would complete the job in the time frame he gave us,’ Ms Ralph told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We were told it would take five weeks to complete the job. That was in April. It should’ve been finished at the end of May. It’s now December. We’ve been given some many excuses now, we’ve lost count.’
A quick look at NT Kitchens’ social media page indicates the Ralph family are not alone in their grief.
‘If I could give zero stars I would. Started a small pantry project in March and as of October it was still unfinished,’ another disgruntled customer posted in October.
‘He never showed up when promised, damaged the bench top in at least 5 places with large chips missing. Hundreds of screw holes in the cabinetry, screwed through cupboard doors by mistake, failed to deliver shelves, edges of cabinetry etc. So many lies and drama.’
Zane and Melody Ralph have been left out of pocket and their home in disarray
Melody Ralph claims she has been strung along by Mr Phung for near on a year
An image posted to Facebook by another angry customer of Mr Phung’s work
Ms Ralph said the stress of their ordeal had impacted upon her entire family.
‘We’ve been living with half a renovation for months. We’ve got things all over the house because we have nowhere to put it all,’ she said.
‘My husband and I have wasted over two weeks of our own time waiting around the house for him to show up, only for him to not arrive. We’d be lucky to get a text from him letting us know he wasn’t coming. It’s just beyond comprehension. Who runs a business like that?
‘We are honest, hard working people. We just want this work finished. Now we have no money left to complete the work because he’s taken it all.’
When Daily Mail Australia contacted Mr Phung on November 13, he claimed he was committed to finishing the work he had started at the Ralph’s home.
Mr Phung claimed his father had recently died, which saw him ditch all correspondence with his customers.
‘I’ve not robbed them… I’m not a thief. I’m so sorry about what happened… I did not rob them. They know my friend and I did not rob them. Many things have happened, that’s why,’ he said.
NT Kitchens owner Hiep T Phung may receive coal in his stocking this Christmas
NT Kitchens owner Hiep T Phung has been slammed for dodgy and incomplete work
All talk no action: Melody Ralph still can’t get a satisfactory outcome from NT Kitchens owner Hiep T Phung
Mr Phung said he was struggling financially to complete builds due to his recent divorce.
‘I’m not running. I’m not a runner… I’m not playing games,’ he said.
‘Too many things have happened to me over the past 11 months. I know it’s my business, but I will call them this week… what can I do? At the moment I have financial problems, I have to figure out the money and keep the job rolling.’
Mr Phung told Daily Mail Australia he would sort the Ralph’s renovation out.
‘I will contact them and figure out the problem and keep the job rolling,’ he said.
While Mr Phung did make contact with the Ralph family days later, the work remains incomplete and will now likely end in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
‘He begged me for two weeks more after he was contacted by the Daily Mail. I reluctantly gave it to him,’ Ms Ralph said.
‘We’ve been totally taken advantage of. It’s disheartening to know that this has happened to other people too. I just don’t want anyone else to go through what we have. It’s so upsetting.’