The homeowner paid $16,000 to the contractor. That’s all he has to show for her

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (CBS46) — After giving an unlicensed housing contractor more than $16,000 to build a new rooftop with a covered porch, a metro Atlanta homeowner is left with a small pile of lumber, a messy demolition site, and four raised beams that are barely supported and secured.

“I no longer know what to believe,” Joseph Sgroe, who lives in Jones Creek, told Better Call Harry, a consumer investigator at CBS46. “I’m at the point where I have to take action.”

Billy Cox is the owner of Cox Construction Services. It’s an unlicensed housing contractor who gave Sgroe $16,500 in partial payment for a new roof.

Segro said workers were at his house working on the deck for two days in April. Over the next three months, he texted Cox to ask when he would be back.

“I haven’t spoken to Bill in months,” Sjore said.

On Monday, Sjo showed us what construction had been done and explained his main concerns about how to secure it.

“He took me out to show me when he did it and said it was better than the code. When I asked why he didn’t use screws, he said he didn’t need them,” Sgroe said.

CBS46 took these concerns to deck inspector Stan Garnett, who looked at photos of how the home’s deck was secured. He explained that the nails used were not up to the mark and were attached to rotten wood. He said the structure is very dangerous.

“Everything he was doing was wrong, putting the homeowner and their family and friends at risk,” Garnett said.

According to the Georgia State Department Licensing Board for General and Residential Contractors, no licenses are required to build a deck. However, a permit is required, and Jones Creek officials said Cox did not.

Sgroe said he asked Cox for a permit, but claimed Cox said he didn’t need a permit.

What are the consequences of building without a permit? A licensed residential contractor may lose their license, but in this case, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State said he could not find Cox listed as having any type of license with her office. Johns Creek officials can fine Cox, but according to Garnett, that’s it.

“Those who are unlicensed have absolutely nothing to risk, because the homeowner is to blame, not the unlicensed contractor,” Garnett said.

Sjorow and his wife saved up for three years to build their own deck. If necessary, they said they would sue Cox in small claims court. Sgroe has also received three bids from other contractors to complete the job.

Both Jones Creek and the Secretary of State’s office said they were investigating the incident.

The moral of this story? If you’re hiring a residential contractor, make sure they’re licensed, and if they want cash up front for supplies, tell them you’ll pay the supplier and have the materials delivered to your home. Pay them on time and don’t make the final payment until it’s all over.

Don’t forget to write everything down. The contractor should provide you with a list of steps and planned dates for each step to be completed.

The Deck & Barrier Association of North America has a search function to help consumers find qualified and licensed builders and contractors. They’ve reiterated how dangerous decks can be when they’re not up to code.

Injury Statistics (Source: North American Rooftop & Railroad Society)

  • More than 250,000 people annually suffer some type of deck injury in the United States
  • 33,000 of structural failure
  • 6000 leads to serious injury or death from head trauma and paralysis

Also here are some tips from the Georgia State Attorney’s Office of Consumer Protection when dealing with contractors.

Be aware of these red flags

Does the contractor:

  • You ask door to door?
  • Just do you have material left over from a previous job?
  • Accepting cash payments only?
  • Ask you to obtain the required building permits?
  • Don’t list a business number in your local phone book?
  • He told you your job would be a “demonstration?”
  • Pressured to make an immediate decision?
  • Offer an exceptionally long warranty?
  • Ask you to pay for the job in full up front?
  • Are you suggesting to 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 Georgia Home Builders Association, to find contractors in your area.
  • Ask the contractor for references from clients who have projects similar to yours. Call each reference and check the work if possible.
  • Get written estimates from multiple companies for identical project specifications.
  • Always insist on a contract of work to be performed, with all warranties, guarantees and promises in writing.
  • Agree on start and end dates and ask that they be written into the contract.
  • Consider setting payment terms in conjunction with the completed phases of the job.
  • When the job is done, make sure it matches the terms of the contract.
  • Do not pay for any unfinished work.

If there’s something you’d like the CBS46 Consumer Investigator to look into, call Harry, fill it out This application form.

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