Action13

How to protect yourself from contractor scams

Friday, January 04, 2013

Here's the type of story we hear all too often -- You hire a contractor to work on your home and they don't return to finish the job. We have a tale on what one homeowner is calling a kitchen nightmare.

What do you do if the contractor you hired refuses to complete your home improvement project? It's a big problem costing homeowners thousands of dollars.

"I wanted a backsplash, wanted granite," said Cora Bigwood.

She and her husband David had big plans for their kitchen, bathroom and living room. So they hired Ray Hernandez with Allegiance Construction Group.

Contract signed. Deposit for half -- over $5,000 paid. But then...

"They would come, spend an hour. Somebody didn't bring the right tools," said Bigwood.

And the quality of workmanship?

"One man came and he sanded the cabinets without taking the fixtures off," she said. "The reason why? He didn't have a screwdriver."

After new countertops were installed, there were more problems. The Bigwood's kitchen has been without cabinet doors since October and no one from Allegiance has been here since the day before Thanksgiving. They say the warning signs continued to build when they noticed a worker in their home wearing a shirt with a different company name on it: A-F Construction.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Ray Hernandez was the owner of A-F Construction, with 16 complaints, and an "F" rating.

Those who filed complaints confirmed with us the photograph of Hernandez on the Allegiance website was in fact the same man they dealt with at A-F Construction. We contacted Hernandez regarding the incomplete work at the Bigwoods, but he declined to comment. Since our call, Allegiance Construction Group's website is no longer up and running.

"A lot of times you find that scam artists ran a previous company that had a bad record or record of complaints," said Monica Russo with the Houston Better Business Bureau.

Russo says before hiring anyone to work in your home, you should do extensive background checks online.

"Making sure they have insurance, and that they're bonded," she said.

Russo says if the company is bonded, they should be able to provide you with that documentation before you sign a contract. If they don't complete the work, you're protected.

As for Bigwood, she'll be researching the next company who comes in to finish the mess Hernandez left behind.

"Next time I'm going to be more leery. I'm not going to have such a large project," Bigwood said.

If you hire a contractor, it may be best to pay them with a credit card if they accept one. This way if problems arise, you can dispute the charges. The Bigwoods are actually getting money back from at least one of their credit card companies.

If you have a home improvement story you'd like us to look into, email us at Action13@abc.com.
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