JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. - Electrical problems, plumbing issues, and shoddy workmanship. This is what retired nurse Wanda Smith found herself living with after hiring a contractor. That remodeling job left her home in worse shape than when it started.
The man she hired was none other than Hollywood Mayor Jerry Adkins. But she's not the only one having trouble. Once our first story aired in May, we began hearing from some of his other customers. They tell us the mayor has struck again.
Teresa Brewer says she hired Mayor Adkins to come in and shore up some flooring and make a few other improvements in her home. It wasn't long before she noticed the house seemed to be shifting, leaning to one side. She called some other guys to come out and take a look, to see what was happening, and they told her the house was literally about to fall in on itself.
The day I visited Teresa Brewer's home, there was a crew there repairing what she says Jerry Adkins had been hired to do.
“All he actually did was put down this floor on top of some rotten floor,” Teresa explained.
She says it wasn't long before she realized there were problems.
“The floor kept dropping and dropping and dropping on me after this floor was put down. So I had to call somebody out here to look and when they got in under there, all the joists and everything that he supposedly put was just rocks and lumber just stacked on top of each other, and they leaned and fell over, no braces, no anything,” Teresa says.
Teresa says the house was literally about to fall in!
“Look at that main joist right there. That's what he had nailed to,” one of the workers explained as he crushed a piece of the rotten wood into dust.
“He nailed to that right there,” Teresa added. She says it's the second time she's had to hire someone to come out and finish what she says she paid Adkins to do.
“I was supposed to have a roof on my house. The tin got delivered, and I had to pay 3 more gentlemen to put the roof on for me,” Teresa says. And she says that was after she paid Adkins to do the job 2 years ago. “I wrote him a check for $6,000 on August 26th. He stopped that afternoon and cashed it and I never seen him again."
“There are a lot of really good contractors out there that go by the law; that are licensed and insured and regulated by our board. But the ones that you hear about the most, that do some of the worst things, are not licensed,” says Chip Carden, the Executive Director of the Home Builders Licensure Board. They go after unlicensed contractors.
“We have an attorney, we keep him pretty busy helping to prosecute unlicensed builders,” Cardin says. He added, “Typically they can settle with us administratively. If they choose to ignore us, then we'll file a warrant on them."
Teresa Brewer will pay thousands of dollars to have repaired the damage an unlicensed contractor left behind.
Adkins is still the Mayor of Hollywood, Alabama, and he's still an unlicensed contractor. In fact, an affidavit from the licensure board says he's never had a contractor's license.
He declined to comment for this story.
But a formal complaint has been lodged against him for work he performed on Wanda Smith's home. We’re told that matter is still under investigation but more information should be available later this month.
So, if you’re shopping for a contractor how do you protect yourself?
Do your homework!
- Ask to see his contractor’s license. If he has one, he’ll be proud to show it to you. It means he has passed a series of tests demonstrating his proficiency and carries insurance to protect you in case there’s a problem.
- If he shows you a state business license or anything other than the Certificate of License from the Home Builders Licensure Board, which is about the size of a credit card, it’s safe to assume he is not a licensed contractor.
- Ask for references, and call them!
- Ask to see proof of insurance that will cover you in case of a problem with his work. Get the policy number and call the insurance company to make certain the policy hasn’t lapsed. Remember, if he doesn’t have a current policy, he can’t be a licensed contractor.
- Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into a decision. Take your time, plan the job.
- If you have questions or concerns, contact the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board in Montgomery and the Better Business Bureau.