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Homeowner’s court case serves as reminder to double check contractor claims

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INDIANAPOLIS — A homeowner found out that the contractor she hired to renovate her new home wasn’t licensed to perform the work, despite his work trailer saying otherwise.

Judy Gordon has grown tired of looking at photos of the project, saying it’s one she’d rather forget.

“I didn’t do anything right. I bought my condo, I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll get it all done, hurry, hurry. It was my fault,” Gordon said.

Gordon hired contractor Cy Hewlett, with Hewlett’s Helping Hands, last year. Photos show that Hewlett’s trailer said he was “licensed, bonded, insured,” but Indianapolis’ Department of Business and Neighborhood Services confirmed that Hewlett was never licensed to do the work. Gordon didn’t find out until after she paid $5,000 and an additional $1,000 for materials.

“We went through the condo and I was telling him this is what I want to do. (He said), ‘Oh, I can do that, I can do that, I can do that,'” Gordon said. “There is nothing he did correctly.”

Gordon hired someone else to finish the work and took Hewlett to small claims court. A judge ruled in her favor, saying in a one-page opinion that he agreed “that the work was below standard” and “the advertising on the utility trailer … was misleading.”

The CBS4 Problem Solvers tried to get in touch with Hewlett, who has yet to pay Gordon back. Multiple voicemails at two numbers for the contractor were not returned.

Collecting a small claims judgment can be difficult and costly, leaving Gordon little option but to get the word out to other homeowners to do your research before you hire someone.

“The first thing I would tell my kids is trust your gut,” Gordon said. “They do need to research that person (and) get references.”

Each county makes their own rules about contractor licensing, so you should check to see if your county requires it. In Indianapolis, the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services keeps a list of licensed contractors at the link here.

You can also find more tips about what to do before you hire a contractor at the link here.

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