Protections exist if you check contractor license before hiring - CBS 5 - KPHO

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Protections exist if you check contractor's license before hiring

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GILBERT, AZ (CBS5) -

A Gilbert woman says a pool contractor conned her out of thousands of dollars and wasn't even licensed to do the work. By conducting some basic research, the homeowner stands a good chance of getting her money back.

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) offers many consumer protections, but you need to take efforts to protect yourself first. If you do, even if a company leaves you high and dry, you have a good chance at a successful remedy.

"I don't know if he's going to come through or not," Patrice Pignatiello said.

Pignatiello hired a company called Premier Backyard Services, Inc. to enlarge her existing pool. The company operates under the name Premier Pools & Spas. The $24,000 contract included a $12,000 deposit.

"My husband wanted him to get started on the pool and we figured we would do half now, not to worry about it, and do the other half when he had completed the work," Pignatiello said.

A couple of weeks later, Pignatiello says work still hadn't started and the owner of Premier Backyard Services, Inc., Aaron W. Gurley, wasn't returning her phone calls either. She went down his Chandler location to find out why.

"I looked inside, there was nothing in the showroom, it was empty, it was just an empty building, it looked like he was out of business," Pignatiello said.

The Registrar of Contractors revoked the license of Premier Backyard Services, Inc. on Oct. 4, 2013, but Pignatiello says Aaron Gurley collected the $12,000 deposit five days later on Oct. 9.

"He took our down payment after his license was revoked," Pignatiello said.

Pignatiello says that action by Gurley is outrageous and unforgivable. She's demanded her money back and says Gurley has agreed, but he's yet to deliver on that promise.

"I hope we can get it back, I hope he does make good, he kept telling us over and over that he's really a good person, so he says, and I really don't know," Pignatiello said.

So, how did Pignatiello protect herself here? She checked with the ROC and confirmed the company was licensed. Days later, when she handed over the deposit, it didn't matter that the license had subsequently been revoked. She could still file a claim against the state's Recovery Fund because the contractor was licensed at time of contract signing. After a state review, Pignatiello has a good chance of getting back the entire $12,000 she lost.

That claim is unnecessary now. After CBS 5 News contacted Gurley, he offered his apologies for the delay and refunded our viewer the entire $12,000.

To minimize your risk with any contractor, it's best to negotiate very little down and pay as the job progresses.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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