HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A disabled woman's home is in ruins after a man hired to do some remodeling turned out to be an unlicensed contractor, as assessed by city inspectors.
This week we met with a 62-year-old disabled woman who hired Joshua Harris of Home Solutions for some accessibility modifications to her home. Harris has been doing work in her home for two months now.
This week, she learned from city inspectors that Harris isn't legally allowed to do the work without the proper licensing, which they said he doesn't have.
When Connie Ibarra hired Harris, she said she told him up front that the repairs were very important to her.
She said she hired him at the beginning of December for a number of projects around her house. The big one she needed was a walk-in shower because of her hip replacement.
"Climbing over, my knees, my hips, and everything else, climbing over into the tub was getting too difficult for me," Connie said.
Now she can use the shower, but she says only if she's very careful. Even still, the installed pipes leak. The toilet sits propped up on wood.
She said she also paid for some work in the kitchen, and now -- "I have no way to cook my food. My oven is out on the back."
Without cooking, her disability income can only afford microwave meals. She's relied on them for two weeks.
Recently an insurance inspector came out for another purpose and he told Connie that none of the repairs looked right.
She called city inspectors who found her new porch had no support. They also found that her home has an exposed gas pipe and her light switches are dangling from the ceiling, posing an electrical risk.
"When they were in here today, they were telling me that I may not even be able to live in here for a while," Connie said.
Connie huddles around a camping lamp at night. It's the only working source of light in the kitchen. Her inhaler sits nearby. She's needed it more now because of the construction dust left by the repair job.
She took out a loan for this work - $20,000. Inspectors say it may cost another $15,000 to bring it up to code.
"I don't have any more money. I gave him all the money I had," she said.
Connie said before she hired the contractor for the work, he showed her a license of some kind. But city inspectors said he doesn't have any kind of licensing that would allow him to do work like this.
"I try to believe and trust in people. My daughter is always telling me, 'You can't do that. You can't do that.' And, I told her I don't want to become one of those hard people that trusts nobody and just has that barrier up. You want to trust," Connie said.
This is the Facebook page of Home Solutions - the company registered to Joshua Harris. Huntsville city records confirm that.
Connie hired Harris on December 2.
City inspectors told us they've seen payment records proving money changed hands for the work here. They also say Harris doesn't have the licensing for any of this.
Here's what they found: Harris built a deck, but never called for any footing inspections. He replaced the bath tub and put a new shower valve in. All of these fittings are dripping water. Wiring in the kitchen was left dangling down.
Inspectors demanded a meeting with Harris about the work. He didn't show up to that meeting Wednesday morning.
We told him we would go to air with a story Wednesday night and we needed to hear from him by 3 p.m.
He called at 3:20 p.m.
He said he had car trouble and he will be at a meeting with the city tomorrow. He said he wants to share his side of the story then.
He said he did not intentionally scam anyone. He said he has a license to do some of the work and planned to refer the rest. But city inspectors told us his license covers home maintenance like window washing or lawn mowing. They said it does not cover work like this.
Joshua Harris said, above all, he wants to make this right - that he will pay back the money if he has to.
We'll be watching.
Huntsville City inspector Skip Stinson said unfortunately, his office runs across a situation like Connie's too often.
We're Taking Action to explain how to protect yourself against unlicensed contractors.
Though Connie did ask questions, city officials believe the contractor showed her a license that wasn't a contractors license.
"When we first started, he had a notebook and in that notebook had copies of a license and before and after pictures," Connie said.
So here's what you need to know to protect yourself. Before you make a hire to do remodeling or any kind of contracting you need to look for one specific thing.
"Any time you're having somebody come over to give you an estimate to do work, always ask for the home builder's card. It's approximately the size of a driver's license. It has to be renewed annually. It will have the expiration date on the bottom," Stinson said.
Connie Ibarra doesn't know exactly what comes next for her.
"I may have to live in this the way that it is," she said.
But she wants to share this story.
"If it will help somebody else, if it will stop somebody else from getting in the same situation I'm in, I'd walk door to door if I had to."
We've had some interest in people reaching out to Connie to lend a helping hand. If you'd like to, you can use the contact form here to do so. We truly appreciate your interest in helping her.