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"He never showed up again", losing money to contractors

Posted at 4:59 AM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 11:04:57-04

PHOENIX — Have you tried hiring someone to work on your home improvement projects recently?

While the state says it is licensing more contractors than ever, other issues have forced long delays in getting work done.

Some homeowners are getting desperate and are hiring the wrong people.

Dennis let us know he wanted three screen doors installed.

He says he put $3,000 down and six months later "we have yet to receive the doors."

Tammy wanted artificial grass put down, she says she handed over a $3,832 deposit.

While Tammy says work began immediately, workers "never showed up again."

"When someone says I can do it right away, you have to ask why," said Jeff Fleetham.

With many licensed contractors backed up because of supply issues and high demand, Fleetham warns about businesses that seem too eager.

"They say they can start a job. But they can't really. They want to get the deposit," Fleetham said.

Fleetham says they may not be licensed.

In Arizona, anyone performing contracting work worth more than $1,000 must have a license.

As Director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC), Fleetham says a license should be your first check.

"You have recourse.... to recoup up to $30,000. If you hire unlicensed, you have no recourse," Fleetham added.

That recourse is through the ROC Recovery Fund.

Because we're seeing so many contracting issues, we talked with Director Fleetham about protecting consumers and we talked about prosecution to get repeat offenders off the streets.

Like Jose Flores Espinosa, he has pleaded guilty to contracting without a license three times. Yet, he is still in business, taking money and not finishing jobs.

Fleetham says the ROC does not prosecute, but he says in the last 5 years, they've referred more than 1,000 cases to agencies that do.

He says cases can be treated as civil instead of criminal, which would come with stiffer penalties.

"If I come into your home, you give me a check, I don't do the work, that is criminal theft. It's a felony," he added.

Protect yourself before hiring, ROC says to look if they have a license, and for any actions involving it.

You should also demand a written contract.

By law, a contract must include a license number, project details, costs and completion date.

"If you don't understand, say stop, explain this to me," Fleetham advised.

As for upfront money, he says that's between you and the contractor.

From what the Let Joe Know team is seeing, you should make minimal deposits, pay on progress and have it written in the contract.

Finally, Fleetham warns about taking a much lower price for a job.

Ask yourself why is it so low? Are they unlicensed? Will you have problems later?

"The driver of this is not the unlicensed person. The driver is the person who hires them," Fleetham stated.

Before hiring, the ROC has several tips to help find the correct person for your needs.

Here's more advice before hiring a contractor.

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