What do you do when a contractor takes your money and runs?
I hope you only made a down payment and did not pay for the entire job before it was done.
In either case, immediately contact the contractor and ask when the job will be done. If he does not show, will not answer or cannot be found, immediately contact the State Department of Consumer Protection or other agency that handles the licensing of contractors. File a formal complaint. Be sure to follow up from time to time because these agencies are often backlogged. It may take some time, but you may get your money back if the contractor is facing the loss of his license.
In some states, you might need to contact the Attorney General's office. You can also contact the police if no work was done. That might constitute fraud, which is a criminal offense.
In the future, always get an estimate and always check on the record of any contractor that you may want to hire. You can do this at the Better Business Bureau or the licensing agency. Consider finding contractors through friends who are satisfied with the work of a craftsman who has the skills you need.
It can take a while, but if the person can be found, you may be able to get your money back. Consider using a credit card for extra protection whenever possible, provided that you do not carry over a balance. This will give you an extra layer of protection from unscrupulous contractors.
Barbara in Wallingford, CT
We have a terrific Attorney General here in Arkansas, and they love to help the "little guy." This may or may not be an avenue for you. You may also do a little research and find a good attorney. We paid one for an hour or two of information. This attorney specialized in land use, and it paid off with our developer.
Sometimes, taking someone to court can be too stressful, and it is best to let it go. Other times, taking someone to court (for fraud, etc.) can be a stress reliever. We have never done so. However, some of our neighbors in our development have gone to court, and they have all won. If you know that this individual has a habit, can be located, and has an established business, you can at least file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Our Attorney General has done wonders for us twice. A few years ago, it handled a situation with a local grocery store that was ripping folks off, and now with the developer of our new (5 years old) homeowners association for false advertising. In fact, it has gone to the Federal level with HUD, and the developer is in for a surprise! Let your tax dollars do the work, or at least give it a try!
Jackie in Benton, Arkansas
Call your local television station. They love to do stories on local scam artists.
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