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UPDATE (June 14, 2021): Several companies came together after Beth Peters shared her story on CBS4 and repaired her leaking roof. Whitman Roofing and Restoration joined with Indy Roof Company and All Seasons Roofing and Restoration to complete the work, using materials donated by ABC Supply Company.

“Being able to come back and give back to the community together, it just shows that we’re not just out there to compete, we’re out there to help,” said Brad Whitman, owner of Whitman Roofing and Restoration.

Peters received an $8,000 judgment against her previous contractor after he did not show up in court.

INDIANAPOLIS — Three homeowners frustrated by disputes with contractors said they wished they knew more about how to protect themselves when they chose to hire the companies.

Beth Peters’ home needed a new roof, but a month after she hired a contractor to do the work, she said he refused to finish the job.

“I had to pay another company to come and put … tarps up on the roof and then we’ve just been stuck with it [unfinished] because we gave him all the money we had,” Peters said.

Bryan Miller hired the same contractor as Peters a year ago, under a different company name. He paid half up front, more than $5,000, but said the contractor never came back.

“He just never did anything,” Miller said.

Six months later, Miller filed a small claims case and a judge awarded him a default judgment, after the contractor failed to show up in court.

“I got the judgment against him but I have to somehow now get him to pay,” Miller said. “The city just shrugs their shoulders and they’re like, well he’s not licensed with us there’s nothing we can do. I don’t know how a person can even protect [themselves].”

CBS4 wanted to know what you can do to protect yourself. Miller noted that you should not trust five star reviews, even from websites that say they’ll help you find a good company. He found his contractor on a popular website and checked references the contractor provided, but neither helped him avoid a costly situation.

You should check with your county to see if a contractor is licensed and ask for bond and insurance information up front. Counties may have their own requirements for contractors.

You have to dig pretty deep to find red flags. You can search the Indiana Secretary of State’s INBiz website at the link here to make sure a company is registered and see how long they’ve been in business. You can also search the state’s MyCase website at the link here for small claims cases.

Mark Spangler learned how quickly a project can turn sour. Spangler hired a contracting company to build a pole barn in his yard and he was happy with the results, so he signed a second contract to add decking to the project. He paid half up front, but said the project didn’t begin as expected and he wished he had requested exact dates for the project to be added to his contract, which only notes “TBD” for completion date.

“Get expectations out front,” Spangler said. “Dates and times when things will be done, don’t leave it up to a gentleman’s agreement.”

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office also suggests getting multiple quotes and never paying more than a third up front. You can read more tips from the office at the link here.

CBS4 spoke to both contractors involved in these cases. Peters and Miller’s contractor admitted he had shut down his business and was trying to pay them back. He did make a payment to Miller last week. Spangler’s contractor said his project was affected by material delays and would start soon.

If you find yourself in a dispute with a company, you can file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office at the link here.