Before and after: How to resolve contractor issues

Two women share experiences with Defenders

SAN ANTONIO – One of the most frequent calls to the Defenders is people dealing with contractor-related issues.

More often than not, people say they gave contractors money and feel like they didn’t get what they paid for.

What should you do if a contractor disappears? Who do you call if you’re left with an empty wallet and incomplete job?

Two women shared their experiences with KSAT so the Defenders can answer those questions and others can learn from their mistakes.

Sandra Portillo’s Story

Sandra Portillo has lived in the same South Side home for decades. When she started noticing signs of wear and tear, she thought she called in professionals.

“We trusted them,” Portillo said.

She and her husband found a house leveling company in a local newspaper. She claims workers left her up in the air after she payed $3,000 up front as part of a $6,120 written agreement. The remaining balance was supposed to be made in payments once the job was completed.

Watch Portillo's story above or click here.

“They started removing the jacks. My husband was all, ‘Why are you removing them?’ He said, ‘We’ll be back Monday.’ They never came back,” Portillo said.

She told the Defenders she felt taken advantage of.

Tommy Prud’homme from the Texas Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division frequently hears of contractors abandoning jobs.

He recommends the following before hiring a contractor:

  • Take your time
  • Check references
  • Ask specialty licensing agencies about the people you’re hiring

In Texas, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is a good place to start.

Following Prud’homme’s tips may save you from paying twice for one job, like the Portillos ended up having to do.

Jody Mansell’s Story

Turn any corner and you’ll see abandoned work in Jody Mansell’s home.

She doubts she will be remodeling again any time soon.

“When I hear the word contractor, I cringe,” Mansell said.

Written contracts aren’t required by law in Texas, according to Prud’homme. Only specialty workers, like electricians and plumbers, must have licenses. However, the Consumer Protection Division chief said they’re not a bad idea.

Watch Mansell's Story

“Don’t leave any blanks that can be filled in later,” Prud’homme said.

He also advises against paying in full before work begins.

“Pay them a little up front, but you want to make sure you’re holding up enough money for the end of the job incentive for them to finish it,” Prud’homme said.

If they don’t finish the job and run off with your hard-earned money, Prud’homme recommends filing complaints with his office, the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

Prud’homme’s office has received nearly 1,500 contractor-related complaints in the last five years, according to an open-records request.

The city of San Antonio requires all city and state licensed contractors be registered with Development Services prior to the issuance of any permit(s), according to the city's website.

It took Mansell five separate agreements with contractors and handymen to get the jobs in her home done. She said she wished she was armed with information beforehand. Now she has a lawyer to help her get things fixed. In the meantime, she’s made her house a home.