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Voice of the Consumer: Beware the absent contractor

By: betty sexton KKTV 11 News
March 20, 2016 Updated: March 20, 2016 at 3:37 pm
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photo - Betty Sexton
Betty Sexton 

One of the biggest complaints we get in our 11 Call for Action office is from homeowners who hire contractors who have been "recommended by a friend." Because a friend or a neighbor was happy with work performed by a certain contractor or company, there's an assumption that you'll be happy, too. I tell people to ask for recommendations from trusted friends and family, but don't ever assume that you'll be as happy as the last guy.

You have to check out the person for yourself. I received a call from a Colorado Springs senior citizen who hired a contractor to paint some rooms of her house. She told me she had a work order which showed she paid him $1,000 upfront. Since her check had been cashed almost immediately, she thought the work would be done right away. After waiting two months and not hearing back from him, she contacted me and asked if I could help her get her money back. I asked her if the painter had purchased any materials or performed any work at all. I learned he had done absolutely nothing except write a contract, take her check, and cash it. That constitutes theft. I told the senior to immediately call the Colorado Springs Police Department. Officer Warren Listal came out, took a report, and then called the contractor. Officer Listal sat in his patrol car outside the senior's home.

With the officer waiting at the curb, the painter showed up one hour later with cash in hand. He paid her back the $1,000 and apologized.

I did a little research on the contractor and learned his company has a F rating with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado. There were several complaints filed against him. If the senior had called the BBB or checked its website she would have seen his track record. I also checked the company's Facebook page and noticed there weren't any recent posts. The latest mention was almost two years ago.

Because painting is considered a cosmetic improvement, it doesn't require a permit. Therefore, the senior couldn't access Regional Building of the Pikes Peak Region nor could the agency help her get a refund. If the contractor had purchased paint or perhaps started the job but not finished it, she would be in a trickier position. She might have had to go to small claims court to try and work out a resolution.

When hiring a contractor you should ask to see a certificate of insurance or bonding certificate and check to make sure it's current. You need to know the contractor is insured if he's injured on your property. You don't want to be responsible for medical costs.

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Contact Betty Sexton at bsexton@kktv.com or 578-0000.

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