Learn From Other People's Contractor Horror Stories
Last month's tornadoes in Rutherford County forced a lot of folks to have to find contractors to make repairs.
But how to do you find a contractor that will do the work you want and not rip you off?
A NewsChannel 5 investigation has found one contractor who keeps getting into trouble for the work he's doing, or, in many cases, not doing.
Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus talked with folks who wonder how he keeps getting away with it.
When Gary Carlton meets new customers, they say, he talks all about his work as a minister.
Gene Spitzer, who hired Carlton to do work around some rental property he owns, recalls, "He starts talking about religion and telling them he's an evangelist."
But the side he shows in church, customers say, is a far cry from how Carlton does business as a home improvement contractor.
When NewsChannel 5 Investigates found Carlton last week, we asked him, "Why do you take so many people's money and then not do the work they pay you for?"
Carlton ignored our questions and kept walking from the Rutherford County Courthouse to his car.
Gene Spitzer has strong feelings about Carlton.
"I think looking at that guy's record, he needs to be put away, put in jail," Spitzer tells Kraus.
When Spitzer and his wife Annette hired Carlton to fix up their rental property, they had a long list of things they paid Carlton to do, including resurfacing a concrete deck, adding storm windows, installing locks and latches on the garage door.
But, none of that was ever done, they say.
Carlton, the Spitzers tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates, disappeared soon after he started the project and never came back.
Annette Spitzer says, "Something definitely needs to be done."
What frustrates the Spitzers the most is that Carlton has been able to do this same kind of thing for so long and to so many people.
We found dozens of lawsuits that have been filed against Carlton over the years. Most claim he failed to do the work he was paid for, or did work that was shoddy, even unsafe.
Jason Brooks is another former customer of Carlton's.
Brooks paid him $50,000 to build an addition for his in-laws.
As he walks around the half-finished project, he points out different areas where there are problems. Much of Carlton did, Brooks tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates, failed inspection. And then, he says, Carlton vanished and wouldn't return calls.
"He's turned what was supposed to be a dream project into a complete nightmare," Brooks shares.
But perhaps what is most surprising is that Carlton knows what he's doing is wrong.
Our investigation found that he's been arrested repeatedly for working as a contractor without a professional license. We also found that he's ignored repeated orders by the state to stop working until he gets a license.
And, get this. He's even used someone else's license, claiming it was his.
Jason Brooks believes, "He doesn't care. That's the thing. He doesn't care about this. He doesn't respect the law."
Gene Spitzer adds, "We just thought cause he was a minister, he would be a decent human being."
Customers like Brooks say they expected more from someone who claims to be a man of God. And, they say, they thought Carlton would do more than simply take their money and run.
Carlton is now being sued by former customers in Davidson, Rutherford and Cheatham Counties. And while he was in court just last week in Murfreesboro, he was served with papers from yet another case, this one in Sumner County.
The State's Contractors Board has gotten complaints about him and they tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates they can fine him for working without a license if they get more reports that he's still working.
So how do you keep this from happening to you??
Thoroughly check out the person you're going to hire. Ask for references and call those people.
Don't pay the entire cost of the project upfront. What's recommended is half at the start and the rest when the work is done.