This past week I had the opportunity to be on a morning show based out of New York - The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet - where contractor scams and avoiding hiring unethical contractors was the theme of one of their segments. They opened the segment with my story where they had filmed me at my home in San Diego. They interviewed me briefly on the show and there was another woman from Pennsylvania whose contractor took $20,000 up front with the contractual starting date a few weeks later. Well it was more like 5 months later when he began but he sure was having the time of life using her 20 grand for God knows what.
He then went on to perform shoddy, unsafe work and dragged the project out for months always saying he needed more money in order to come back. $114,000 later he abandoned the project leaving her with just a shell and no protections from the elements. He was no where to be found and the city had to condemn the home leaving the family homeless. Apparently he did this to 14 other homeowners, one of them being a police officer and that's when he got caught. He's now sitting in jail waiting for his trial which is set for June 30th. In the meantime they've lost everything and have had to use their kids' college savings to survive on. I met them at the show and the kids just really looked depressed. I felt so bad for them and understood completely their disillusion with the construction industry, the legal system and the lack of consumer protection laws in their state.
Some States are far better at providing and disseminating important consumer protection information and guidelines than others. And the legal system in various states are more aggressive when it comes to punishing the offending contractors than others; so many of them are let off the hook only to go on and harm others. Its a vicious, dysfunctional cycle that the regulatory agencies are unable to control which only renders them useless when you're talking about protecting the consumer. Truth be told, they don't know how to do that in a way that works and can only perform the administrative end when it does come down to citing a contractor which typically isn't disclosed to the public until the contractor racks up a sufficient number of complaints and then it's too late. He/she has damaged a significant number of homeowners and has collected alot of money along the way and can go to sleep at night knowing what he/she has done. It's sick and something has got to give.
The attorney on the show, a litigator from New York shared with me that even though they may win cases against errant contractors they rarely can collect because these guys immediately file bankruptcy and do not carry General Liability insurance. And their not gone forever; they typically emerge in another city or state where there are limited or no licensing requirements and that's scary. California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah have somewhat similar protection laws and thus have reciprocity agreements in place where they can cross check applicants who apply for licenses. This would at the very least be a good fix to have with more states doing this to keep the roaming transient contractors from working and feeding off unassuming homeowners.
Next blog I'll talk about background checks and what I'll be offering for consumers and contractors alike.