Homeowner paid $16K to contractor. This is all he has to show for it
A Georgia deck inspector says what was built wasn’t up to code and was a severe safety hazard.
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (CBS46) - After giving an unlicensed residential contractor more than $16,000 to build a new deck with a covered porch, a metro Atlanta homeowner has been left with a small pile of lumber, a messy demolition site, and four raised beams that are propped up and barely secured.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” Joseph Sgroe, who lives in Johns Creek, told Better Call Harry, CBS46′s consumer investigator. “I’m at the point where I’ve got to take an action.”
Billy Cox is the owner of Cox Construction Services. He is an unlicensed residential contractor who Sgroe gave $16,500 as partial payment for a new deck.
Sgroe said workers were at his home working on the deck for two days back in April. Over the next three months, he texted Cox to ask when he was coming back.
“I haven’t talked to Bill in months,” Sgroe said.
On Monday, Sgroe showed us what construction had been done and explained the major concerns he had about how it’s secured.
“He brought me out to show me when he did it and he said it’s better than code. When I asked why he didn’t use bolts, he said he didn’t need them,” Sgroe said.
CBS46 took those concerns to deck inspector Stan Garnett, who looked at photos of how the deck was secured to the home. He explained the nails used are not up to code and are attached to rotting wood. He said the structure is very dangerous.
“Everything that he was doing was incorrect,” Garnett said, “putting the owner of the house and their family and friends at risk.”
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Licensing Board for General and Residential Contractors, licenses are not needed to build a deck. However, a permit is required, and Johns Creek officials said Cox didn’t get one.
Sgroe said he asked Cox about a permit, but claims Cox said he didn’t need one.
What are the consequences for building without a permit? A licensed residential contractor could lose a license, but in this case, a spokesperson for the secretary of state said it can’t find Cox listed as having any type of license with its office. Johns Creek officials could fine Cox, but according to Garnett, that’s about it.
“Those that are not licensed have absolutely nothing to risk, because it’s the homeowner that becomes responsible, not the unlicensed contractor,” Garnett said.
Sgroe and his wife saved their money for three years to build their deck. If needed, they said they are going to sue Cox in small claims court. Sgroe has also received three quotes from other contractors to complete the job.
Both Johns Creek and the secretary of state’s office said they are investigating this incident.
The moral of this story? If you hire a residential contractor, make sure they’re licensed, and if they want money up front for supplies, tell them you’ll pay the supplier and have the materials delivered to your house. Pay them on schedule and don’t make the final payment until everything is done.
Don’t forget to always get everything in writing. A contractor should provide you with a list of steps and planned dates to complete each step.
The North American Deck and Railing Association has a search function to help consumers find qualified, licensed deck builders and contractors. They reiterated how dangerous decks are when they aren’t up to code.
Injury stats (source: North American Deck and Railing Association)
- More than 250,000 people a year suffer some type of injury from a deck in the U.S.
- 33,000 are from structural failures
- 6,000 result in serious injury or death from head trauma and paralysis
Also here are some tips from the Georgia Attorney General’s consumer protection division when dealing with contractors.
Be aware of these red flags
Does the contractor:
- Solicit door-to-door?
- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job?
- Only accept cash payments?
- Ask you to get the required building permits?
- Not list a business number in the local telephone directory?
- Tell you your job will be a “demonstration?”
- Pressure you for an immediate decision?
- Offer an exceptionally long guarantee?
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up front?
- Suggest that you borrow money from a lender he or she knows?
Tips for choosing and working with a contractor
- Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for referrals.
- Contact local trade organizations, such as the Home Builders Association of Georgia, to find contractors in your area.
- Ask the contractor for references of customers who had projects similar to yours. Contact each reference and inspect the work if possible.
- Get written estimates from several companies for identical project specifications.
- Always insist on a contract for work to be performed, with all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing.
- Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
- Consider setting payment terms in conjunction with completed stages of the job.
- When the job is done, make sure it matches the terms of the contract.
- Do not pay for any work that is incomplete.
If there’s something you would like CBS46′s Consumer Investigator Better Call Harry to look into, fill out this submission form.
Copyright 2022 WGCL. All rights reserved.