"I Got Scammed By My Building Contractor.. Now I Need You to Find Them and Serve Them."
Updated: Feb 10
I serve a lot of Civil Cases on Building Contractors.. . It's very rare you see them criminally charged, but more often than not Civil Suite is filed... and then I get the call.. While I'm always up to the task to help my clients find "Bob the Builder" that done them wrong, here are a few tips about hiring a Contractor and what to do so hopefully you don't need me..
PLEASE.. CHECK CONTRACTORS OUT.. YES.. "Bob the Builder" ABSOLUTELY COULD HAVE DONE A GOOD JOB FOR YOUR FRIEND OR NEIGHBOR CHEAPLY FOR $100.. ( Except he only patched his roof.. and any moron can slap some tar and shingles on) BUT HAVE ZERO CLUE ABOUT ACTUALLY PUTTING ON A WHOLE NEW ROOF WITH YOUR 15K . THESE CON ARTISTS ARE NOTORIOUSLY HARD TO FIND AND EVADE SERVICE OF PROCESS WHEN YOU DO HAVE TO SUE.. .. MEANWHILE YOU ARE OUT OF MONEY AND POSSIBLY LANGUISHING WITH A TARP ON YOUR ROOF .. AND WAITING FOR JUSTICE TO BE SERVED CAUSING YOU STRESS, AND FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS.
1) LICENSING , LICENSING, LICENSING- MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR IS LICENSED IN YOUR STATE, CHECK WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT TOO and MAKE SURE THE NAMES / INFO MATCH WHAT YOUR CONTRACTOR IS PROVIDING.
2) ASK YOUR POTENTIAL CONTRACTOR IF THEY'VE WORKED IN OTHER STATES? IF YES, CHECK THEM TOO FOR COMPLAINTS ... ASK THEM TO SUBMIT TO A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK IF THEY WILL BE IN YOUR HOME WITH YOUR VALUABLES..
Seems like common sense, Right? Contractors come and go on your property and in and out of your home. Protect your VALUABLES. I'm not just talking about your monetary goodies and baubles.. but by that, I ALSO I mean your children! I served a case a few months ago on a guy in jail that used his brother's information to get his contractor's license.. BUT told the clients his name was something else... AFTER HE ROBBED THEM BLIND .. They also found out he was a sex offender and had multiple felony charges for... wait for it.. Rape of a Minor.. and had made inappropriate overtures to their 14 year old daughter.. if there will be subcontractors or employees ask the same thing.
3) VERIFY YOUR CONTRACTOR'S INSURANCE/ BONDING .. ANYONE CAN PAINT ANYTHING ON THE SIDE OF A TRUCK. The same case from above.. the insurance policy had long ago lapsed, AND WASN'T EVEN VALID PREVIOUSLY BECAUSE IT WAS ISSUED IN THE BROTHER'S NAME.
4) NEVER GIVE A CONTRACTOR RECIEPTS AND BE SURE TO COLLECT RECEIPTS FROM THEM IF THEY PROVIDE MATERIALS OR ITEMS WITH WARRANTIES.. A Contractor can take materials back for inferior materials and keep the difference. You could also find yourself without warranties to important items such as your water heater or heating and cooling systems.
5) IF THERE HAS RECENTLY BEEN A NATURAL DISASTER .. WILDFIRES, FLOODS, TORNADOES BE ESPECIALLY LEARY ... SCAMMERS WILL MIGRATE FOR THE NEXT BIG FINANCIAL OPPORTUNITY- YOUR INSURANCE CHECKS!! As Granny used to say.. " If it sounds too good to be true it probably is." I have personally seen friends scammed after a big tornado as well as wildfires when scammers came to " help" .
6) CHECK GOOGLE AND YELP REVIEWS... SEE IF YOUR CONTRACTOR HAS RESPONDED TO COMPLAINTS. No one engaged in Business will have perfect reviews.. but checking to see if they respond and at the time frame will let you know if this is a pattern or just someone they couldn't make happy being a Debbie Downer.
7) DON'T ASSUME A BBB BEING CLEAR OR GOOD IS AN INDICATOR OF ETHICS OR QUALITY. As a business owner.. I know if I pay for my listing.. I can say I have BBB ENDORSEMENT and look legitimate. While the BBB is an avenue to help insure quality help is retained, most folks don't realize any business that can pay their membership fee get the benefit of a good rating.
8 )NEVER PAY A CONTRACTOR 100% OF THE JOB UP FRONT.. LEGITIMATE CONTRACTORS WILL ONLY EXPECT A RETAINER WITH THE BALANCE DUE UPON AGREED SET DATES DURING A PROJECT OR AT THE PROJECT COMPLETION. DON'T DECIDE TO REMODEL YOUR GUEST ROOM AND BATH 30 DAYS BEFORE YOUR MOTHER IN LAW IS COMING TO TOWN FOR YOUR SON'S WEDDING. A client paid a Contractor 25K for a new bathroom and got an add on shed with a hole in his floor that had raw sewage oozing out of it for the Holidays. Desperate to have it all done in time, the client even paid this unscrupulous and inexperienced Contractor even more money just so he didn't have a mess come Christmas.
9. DON'T BE AFRAID IF YOU'RE UNHAPPY AT ANY GIVEN STEP IN THE PROJECT TO SPEAK UP AND FIRE YOUR CONTRACTOR .
I often hear .. " I really wasn't thrilled with such and such" or " He habitually didn't do something to my liking but I needed to have such and such project complete.. I recently served a guy who clearly used inappropriate construction materials on a project a group of kindergartners could have done better.. and my clients had hired this guy on Halloween for over a 25K bathroom remodel and said " Well I saw he was taking bad plumbing short cuts.. but I had to have it done before the Holidays"
10. IF YOU FALL VICTIM TO A BAD CONTRACTOR.. HIRE AN ATTORNEY AND A PROFESSIONAL PROCESS SERVER...
Attorneys do charge a lot of money, BUT you are paying for their education and experience.. If it's a small claims case, you might possibly do ok on your own, but often times I see someone unwilling or worse, unable because of the financial straits their Contractor put them in and the results are disastrous. Same with hiring a Process Server... I have seen cases in recent memory that were lost because someone representing themselves alleged an action that by State Statute.. they couldn't prove.. also ..going cheap and hiring the Sheriff's Department to serve your complaint ( they do an amazing job but are limited by time constraints and number of attempts). In another attempt to save money, getting a friend to do it can also damage or have your case thrown out if served improperly. I often hear clients angst and frustration after an unsuccessful Service of Process attempt.... Well the local Sheriff can't possibly exert the same effort we as Professional Process Servers do as Serving Warrants and Complaints can require steps. They simply don't have time for it as often times they have to fit it into their patrol duties. A Professional Process Server can spend time the Deputies can not in searching for a Defendant, trying different addresses including places of employment and sometimes even tracking a Defendant out of state when they have felt the heat in the locale they were last ripping people off in.. .. Often times Deputies are confined to trying one address, and they simply don't have time to skip trace a Defendant. Similarly hiring a friend who is unfamiliar with Court Procedure can have a detrimental effect in that if served incorrectly, your case can be thrown out all together. Please don't assume because you've watched a lot of Judge Judy ( I love the Court Shows too! ) it looks easy enough ( those folks on those shows have agreed to Binding Arbitration and are getting paid for their appearance regardless of disposition of their case.. so they really have nothing to lose) that you don't need the skill of an Attorney or Process Server.
Hopefully, you never need the Services of a Professional Process Server in one of these matters.. but if you do.. one is always close by here in East Tennessee... Smoky Mountain Process and Legal Services is at the ready.
Chris Wilkinson is the owner of Smoky Mountain Process and Legal in Knoxville, Tennessee. She and her partner, Candice work to serve the Communities of East Tennessee. They live in South Knox County with their 2 dogs, Gabby and Molly.
If you have questions about Service of Process or need Mobile Notary Services .. call 865-347-7967 or go to www.besttnserver.com
The tips in this Blog in no way constitutes legal advice. Should you have a legal matter, please consult an Attorney LICENSED in your state.