Beware Of Contracting Scams

Sunday, April 27th 2008, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

Spring is the busiest time of year for homeowners to remodel. But, Oklahoma doesn't require any license for contractors. And there are dozens of horror stories out there every year. News On 6's Jeffrey Smith spoke with one woman who says she's the victim of a contracting scam.

Twenty states require licenses for general contracting. Oklahoma is not one of them. That means homeowners have to be extra careful. Dorothy Sparks says she lost $3,000 to a bad contractor. She hopes her experience can help others.

Dorothy Sparks says she has been saving for two years to remodel her kitchen. When she called a general contractor this month, he told her it would be a piece of cake.

"Put the trim up, and build the pantry. He says, ‘I'll be finished today.' So, I paid him the rest of the money," said Dorothy Sparks who is a contractor scam victim.

The contractor never finished the job.

"I came back that night, and his worker was in here with a girl. They was drinking and hadn't done nothing," said Sparks.

Sparks paid up front almost $3,000. She says he believed the contractor at his word because he looked professional.

"I figured when he told me that he'd have the trimming, the paint, and the pantry, and the deadbolt, it'd be done," said Sparks. "He keeps telling me he's done the work, he's finished."

If you plan on remodeling this spring, the Better Business Bureau has a few tips to keep in mind. First, never pay the entire amount up front. You may have to make a deposit, but don't pay in full before the project is finished. Also, get everything in writing. That includes a payment schedule, as well as start and end dates. And remember, Oklahoma contractors don't have to be licensed. So, you have to rely on friends and family for recommendations.

"If anybody's out there that's gonna get their kitchen done, make sure you get it in writing. I mean every detail," said Sparks.

Sparks says she has had to borrow money from family to get by. But, she hopes her experience will warn others to think twice.

The News On 6 tried contacting the contractor Sparks hired, but he wouldn't return our phone calls.

In a case like this one, if you pay out-of-hand and there isn't a written contract, there isn't much you can do legally to recoup your losses.