CONTACT 13: Three steps to avoiding contractor trouble

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - A 50-year-old valley man faced several charges including taking money under false pretenses.

Greg Barstow, a former employee for a licensed contractor, started taking side jobs under a fake business called Diamond Restoration.

The Nevada State Contractors Board says he's pleaded guilty to contracting without a license.

But unfortunately, many Las Vegas residents are falling for this type of scam. Contact 13 looks at 3 easy steps you need to know to avoid being the next victim.

"I can't believe it. He seemed so honest," says Joan Stuart.

She hired a contractor last fall to build a pool. He came highly recommended by a family friend.

"It was $40,000. He got $10,000 to begin with," Stuart says.

The contractor started the job, but then weeks went by with no progress.

"Always said he needed more money. That the people he had hired to do it, need more money," Stuart says.

Eventually, Stuart paid him the entire $40,000. But all she got...

"A hole, big hole in the back. Really was hazardous for anyone around the area," Stuart says.

But hiring a licensed contractor should be easy. Because you've got a free resource in the Nevada State Contractors Board.

"Ask for the contractors license number, understanding that's different from a business license," says Jennifer Lewis with the Contractors Board.

She says they'll tell you if a contractor is in good standing and what kind of license the person has. Just make sure that they're actually employed by the company they claim to work for. 

"A lot of people are being scammed, by having individuals represent themselves as being employed by a licensed contractor, when in fact they aren't," Lewis says.

Your second step should be to get at least 3 bids from 3 licensed contractors. And be sure to ask for references. Finally once you've made your choice, get everything in writing.

"You want to make sure all those details are translated into your actual contract. Down to the type of paint, the color of paint, the type of material, how it's going to be cut, the size of the wood grain you want, etc," Lewis says.

Remember no matter how much you like your contractor, it's a business deal. So for your own protection, don't take them at their word.

"Even though they seem so nice and sincere, it's like forget about that. Check every little thing you can think of, before you put a penny out," Stuart says.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line: Never pay with cash. Your check or credit card payment should be made to the company. When making a down payment, the Contractors Board recommends 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less. 

And remember you have recourse with a licensed contractor. If the board finds a violation, they can order your contractor to fix the problem. And if that doesn't work, you may be eligible for a refund through the Residential Recovery Fund.

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