3 ON YOUR SIDE: Avoid contractor fraud - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

3 ON YOUR SIDE: Avoid contractor fraud

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By Cheryl Lasseter - bio | email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - First, an update on two remodelers we've highlighted recently. In March, we found Benjamin White promoting his deck business at a home show at the Mississippi Trademart. Last year, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office convicted him for accepting more than $53,000 in payment for work that wasn't completed as promised. A new law has been passed since then, and his misdemeanor conviction would have been a felony today. Also, he's unlicensed for home repair, but since his conviction he's entered into contracts with a Jackson woman that total more than $100,000.

A week ago, we found Jerry Dunn's company doing a roof repair job in tornado-stricken Yazoo City. He said it's a $30,000 job, but he too is unlicensed. Dunn has since told the Mississippi Board of Contractors that he wants to get licensed, and that may help him avoid a fine of up to $5,000.

Any home remodeling contractor accepting more than $10,000 for a job must be licensed in the state of Mississippi. But the Board of Contractors currently only licenses 6,000 builders and contractors. Many more are out there who are unlicensed, and breaking the law. The cost is $50 for the license and $100 yearly to renew. It also requires a test that a vast majority of applicants pass.

Board President John Sullivan has asked the legislature to require licensing for a job of any amount. "We've got folks who want to tickle that threshold, a $9,999 deal to put a roof on or do remodeling," he says. "A lot of other states pick up this philosophy. If you pick up a hammer, do work in the state, we want you to be licensed."

Someone who's seen his share of good and bad contractors is Scott Shoemaker, President of Shoemaker Homes. He's building in Rankin County's Farmington Station. "We are a spec builder as well as a custom builder," he says.

And he has this advice when hiring a remodeler or builder.

Ask for proof of insurance. Unfortunately it's not a requirement for residential builders, just commercial. "Workman's comp, general liability," he says. "Your contractor needs to be protected. Consequently, you're protected."

Choose companies with a good reputation, and get several estimates. "I have no problem at all if someone wants to price me and price someone else. I do it," Shoemaker says.

And again, make sure your contractor is licensed for any new home construction, or any remodeling more than $10,000.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. If your contractor is legitimate, he won't have a problem answering them.

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