TO THE RESCUE: Company steps up to help paralyzed veteran

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - He's getting a helping hand from a grateful "Hart."

Todd Hart, licensed contractor and owner of Hart Family Construction Company, offered to rescue a paralyzed veteran in Frayser. Unlicensed contractors took the man for thousands of dollars in a botched home improvement project.

"I hated hearing that he had to deal with this from a contractor who wasn't licensed or insured or anything, especially him being a veteran," Hart said. "I want to re-do it and do it right."

Hart's offer is in response to a WMC Action News 5 investigation Wednesday. It revealed two unlicensed contractors duped 83-year-old Earnest Sanders, Jr.--an Army veteran paralyzed from the waist down in a 2014 auto accident that also killed his wife--into pulling his own building permit for a garage addition behind his house to accommodate his disability.

Canceled checks revealed Sanders paid them more than $40,000, only to have them botch the job and abandon him.

Click here to see the botched construction project.

Shelby County code officials said he had no recourse under county building codes because since he pulled the building permit as the homeowner, he assumed all responsibility for the work.

"There were some things that I didn't know about pulling the permit yourself," Sanders said. "If I had known, I would have never pulled the permit [myself]."

Thursday, Hart inspected the work. He said he would assemble a team that would tear down the unlicensed contractor's work, lay new concrete foundation, and rebuild the garage FOR FREE.

"Just rebuild it and get it back level again, from scratch," Hart said.

"It really renews my faith in human beings," Sanders said. "We have good human beings. I'm very pleased someone is trying to help me."


1. The Better Business Bureau. You should start with the bureau. Build a list of contractors who are listed as "BBB-accredited" and carry at least an "A" rating. BBB-accredited businesses automatically agree to arbitration in the matter of consumer complaints -- and that arbitration is binding.

2. Your State Contractors Board. Depending on the type and cost of your job, your state may require the contractor to hold an active state contractor's license. If you cannot verify the licensure status of the contractor, drop that company from your list, no matter what its BBB rating. Also, just because a contractor is licensed in one Mid-South state doesn't necessarily mean it is licensed in another Mid-South state. Mid-South states recognize reciprocal licenses only in certain conditions.

In Tennessee: Tennessee Board of Licensing Contractors

In Arkansas: Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board

3. Get 3-5 Estimates. Once you've assembled a list of highly-rated and properly credentialed contractors, insist on estimates from each of them.

4. Verify Insurance. Ask the contractors to provide proof of insurance. According to Angie's List, contractor's insurance typically falls into one of two categories:

LIABILITY:  covers property damage and injuries caused by the contractor's work.

WORKERS COMPENSATION: covers workers injured on the job on your property, regardless of fault.

5. Verify Bonding. Most states require contractors to carry a surety bond. The consumer can file a claim against that bond with the bonding company should the contractor fail to complete the job, fail to pay the on-site workers or fail to pay for materials. Ask the contractors to provide either proof of bonding or the contact information of the bonding company, then verify the bond with that company.

6. Check Your City's/County's Requirements. Some municipalities require contractors to carry additional credentials. Crittenden County, Arkansas, for example, allows a privilege license for contractors who perform small jobs for less than $20,000, but they must carry an Arkansas contractor's license for jobs above $20,000. Make sure the contractor is cleared to pull building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, etc. with your city and/or county.

7. Make Your Choice, But Keep Records. Keep copies of your contract, licenses, proof of insurance, proof of bonding and any additional requirements. Consider keeping a photo or video "diary" of the construction's progress.

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