DENVER — The owner of Holy Ground Tiny Homes, an Englewood-based nonprofit that builds and delivers homes to people across the country, is back in court.
Matt Sowash, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2009 for bilking more than $400,000 from investors for his amateur poker league, now faces several lawsuits filed by customers who allege he breached contract and never delivered their houses after they paid him.
Denver7's partners at BusinessDen first reported on the situation. Reporter Justin Wingerter said he interviewed more than 12 of Sowash's customers, who have strikingly similar experiences with the company.
"So the stories are very similar," Wingerter said. "People paid, and still they don't have a house, which they either have half paid for or, in a lot of cases, entirely paid for."
According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, 24-year-old Clara Davis, a teacher in New York, alleges she wired her life savings of more than $40,000 in January for a tiny home Sowash promised her by August.
The lawsuit states when Davis "arrived at Defendant’s factory, Defendant’s representatives told Plaintiff that her tiny home was one to two years behind schedule, and that there were one hundred seventy (170) tiny homes that still needed to be built before work on hers could even get started."
Holy Ground Tiny Homes has an F rating on the Better Business Bureau, with eight complaints. Several customers made allegations made very similar to those in Davis' lawsuit.
While several customers are upset, the company is not a scam, as it has delivered many homes on time to its customers.
When Denver7 attempted to reach Sowash for comment Thursday at his company's warehouse, a security guard informed him a news crew was at the gate and told Denver7 Sowash did not wish comment. But several months prior, Sowash did speak to Wingerter at length about the issues the company is facing.
"His explanation was that the construction industry went downhill — got very difficult last year, construction costs went up — all of which is true. Certainly, they were under contract to buy, or to build, rather, more than 100 homes that they ended up losing money on," Wingerter said. "One of the issues with Holy Ground Tiny Homes is that they're currently taking in money to build prior orders. So they're reliant on new capital, on people buying a home now, so that they can build orders that they took in a year or two ago, and that's a very risky business model, to be reliant on new capital to fill all the orders. And it's a dangerous proposition for any business."
While several customers find themselves in an aggravating situation, Vivi Gloriad, a local real estate agent and a former customer of Sowash's, said he delivered on his promise for her tiny home.
"He told me that he could have it delivered within eight weeks, which he did follow through on. I have received my tiny house," Gloriad said.
Satisfied with his product, Gloriad considered working with Sowash on a larger project to build tiny homes in an effort to curb homelessness in the Denver area — a conversation that she halted when she learned of Sowash's pending legal issues.
"I know he's got some things in the past he has to work on. And so until that happens, we're not going to be able to work together. My reputation is everything," Gloriad said.
Denver7 reached out to Sowash's attorney Thursday, who has yet to respond.