GREENE COUNTY — Christmas will be tight this year for a single mother in Greene County after losing her life savings to a home improvement contractor.
Erica Hudson paid contractor Codey Hall $30,000, to help improve her family’s life.
“I have three kids and only two bedrooms, so I was trying to add a bedroom on for my daughter and get a laundry room with a two car garage,” Hudson said.
Hudson knew Codey Hall’s family, and checked out his website for Cosar Construction.
“It all seemed pretty legit,” Hudson said.
The single mother hired Codey Hall in May, and paid him a $30,000 check for the $45,000 job.
"That was my entire divorce settlement,” Hudson said. “That was my whole life savings right there. "
Hudson said aside from laying some concrete, Hall didn’t do any work or finish the job.
“I kept calling him saying ‘are you coming back, when are you coming back?’” Hudson said. “I never heard from him so I called him and said, 'You're fired. I want my money back.'"
Hudson contacted law enforcement in August, and reached out to Call 6 Investigates in November, frustrated that Hall had not been charged.
Call 6 Investigates started asking questions to the prosecutor’s office on Nov. 14, and at the time Greene County prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw said the matter was under investigation.
On Nov. 19, prosecutors filed theft and home improvement charges against Hall — a felony and misdemeanor charge respectively.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Hudson.
Call 6 Investigates knocked on the door of a home listed as Hall's, left a business card and also left several messages for Hall’s attorney Joseph Lozano.
The owner of the property listed for Hall in court records says Codey Hall has not lived at the Solsberry address since summer 2018.
Court documents show Hall blamed the excavating crew, which dug a footer for the project, for putting Hall behind.
The Secretary of State’s office dissolved Codey Hall’s business “Cosar Construction” after the company failed to file a business entity report and pay a filing fee.
The company’s “inactive date” is listed as Dec. 5, 2019.
The Cosar Construction website is no longer working and neither is the company’s phone number.
Hudson hopes to get her money back and educate others.
“Number one, I hope no one hires him and gets the same response I got,” Hudson said. “I really need that money back, and I don’t know what he did with it.”
Hudson said she asked Hall for a contract in writing but never received one, but she wishes she had done more to protect herself.
“The morale of the story is to do a lot more investigation than I did, and I thought I did quite a bit but you really don’t know a person until you do business with them,” Hudson said.
It’s always a good idea to get a contract in writing and run the contractor’s name and business name through MyCase.in.gov to see if they have any criminal charges or civil lawsuits against them.
Consider these tips from the BBB when hiring anybody to work in your home:
· Research and gather information. You can search for a contractor’s Business Profile at BBB.org to get free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB's accreditation standards including: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity. Also search for the name of the company online along with "Complaint", "Review" or "Scam" to find different results. Ask the company if employees and sub-contractors undergo a background check. Are they trained and certified? What identification will they show when they come to your home?
· Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work. Ask if the contractor stuck to the estimated budget and completion date for the project. If possible, inspect the contractor's work yourself. Ask if the contractor is a member of a professional association that has standards or a code of ethics.
· Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.
· Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Specify who is to obtain necessary building permits and who is responsible for clean-up. Make sure all verbal promises are included in the contract. Ask how much work will be subcontracted and ask for information on the subcontractors. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
· Verify license and insurance. Always be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your region. In the United States, you can get to your state’s licensing agency to learn more here. In Canada, requirements differ from province to province, so make sure to search for information specific to yours. Your local BBB can help. Once you have your contractor’s insurance information, call the carrier to confirm appropriate coverage for worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
· Confirm building permits. Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. They will usually obtain the permits, but you will probably pay for them. That should be detailed in your contract. Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment.
· Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver, in the United States, is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. In some Canadian provinces, there is a mandatory Builders Lien holdback, so ensure you understand any financial obligations you may be liable for.
· Think about future service issues. Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
· Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
· Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
· Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.