The other week, I went to small claims court to watch a DeSoto business owner exact revenge on a roofer who relieved him of a $7,700 deposit but provided no roof. The roofer, Lucas Ray Currier, took the deposit money and disappeared.
This story makes me sick. The victim is Bong Huynh, a Vietnamese-American who worked to buy his first American home. After a hail storm, roofers swarmed his neighborhood. He doesn’t speak English, so after the roofer disappeared, a friend of his contacted me on his behalf. I suggested small claims court to get a judgment.
Bong did that. He arrived with a translator whose English wasn’t much better. Roofer Currier no-showed. Bong won. He may never see the money again. But here’s what matters: Roofer Currier can continue to do business in Texas. Who’s going to stop him?
Want to stop him and the hundreds of other unreliable roofers and general contractors who take advantage of storm victims? I have a plan. Pull up a chair.
In my previous Watchdog report, I unveiled four of the five topics on The Watchdog’s 2017 legislative plan. Recapping, they are: reforming retail electricity shopping; protecting insurance customers’ rights; stopping DPS from taking fingerprints and other biometric information from law-abiding Texans; and fixing the unfair state property tax system.
Here’s the fifth and final one: a required license for roofers and general contractors. Not continuing education, and not even enforcement of violators. I am a pragmatist and realize that’s too much to ask of this legislature. All I want is a list kept that we can check before hiring.
If roofer Currier disappears and gets a judgment against him, his name is taken off the list. You, as a consumer, would know to check the license list. If a roofer isn’t on it, you go another way. That’s my dream. (By the way, I tried to contact Currier, but he didn’t respond.)
To battle obstacles, I’m calling on your help for old-fashioned people power. If you want to get involved as a citizen of Watchdog Nation in any of these battles, send an email to me at email@example.com. I’ll make sure you’re in the loop. Which lawmakers should you write to? Where is a bill stuck? Who are the heroes and villains?
This is how we did it together two years ago when three of five bills we pushed turned into law. I created a Watchdog Hall of Fame to honor legislators that did this great work. This year, we have our own logo.
After the Garland-Rowlett-Sunnyvale tornado attack in December 2015, my colleague Marina Trahan Martinez and I easily found roofers violating rules and state laws. They didn’t care. Then the letters from frustrated customers began piling up. A sampling:
A woman complains the roofer put in vents upside down so water comes into her house. The roofer won’t help.
Another woman tells me her contractor took a down payment, completed one-third of the work, shut down his cell phone and was never heard from again.
A man shows me evidence of 12 leaks in his roof since it was installed in 2014.
Another man lays out the story of how his roofer also refuses to honor the warranty and repair shoddy work.
Yet another man sends me proof of an incomplete roof job. He says he lost $10,000 to a disappearing roofer.
A married couple tells me that after a hailstorm they gave $5,000 for roof and window repairs. “They no longer answer their phone and have not contacted us in two months.”
A man lost $5,000. “They made up excuse after excuse about why they couldn’t deliver my roofing materials.”
How do these roofing outlaws get jobs? Through word of mouth, through door knocking and the latest annoyance, through call centers that violate Do Not Call lists.
I get these calls, too. They are liars. They tell me they represent a roofing company in the city in which I live. No such company exists. They tell me they are doing my neighbor’s roofs. They’re not. I previously showed how they use fake Caller ID numbers to make it appear they’re local, when they’re not.
Neighbors are tougher
All our surrounding states require licensing or registration for workers who do major work on homes and businesses. Not Texas.
The Watchdog is asking for a simple list, one that we can check before we go out and spend thousands of dollars in one of the most crooked businesses in the great state of Texas.
Enough is enough.
Join me. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Staff writer Marina Trahan Martinez contributed to this report.
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What Texans are telling The Watchdog
“Your goal is a lofty one and may have challenges in this conservative state. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t give it a good try.” — Robert Curry
“During the time I was a general contractor, there were a number of companies that used the title ‘general contractor’ who were operating out of their pickup trucks, and most had no insurance.” — Bob Travis
“I am an insurance fraud investigator. When a catastrophic event happens, I hear lots of stories about the dishonesty of what I call migrant roofers/contractors.” — Chris Javier
“We should license them like we do plumbers and electrical contractors. It is not a perfect solution, but it is a step in a good direction.” — Bill Lynch
“Unfortunately, those phony contractors flood any market, rarely have an office even in their home state, have no insurance, no employees and no ethics.” — Nelson R. Braddy Jr.
It is absolutely crazy that homeowners have virtually no legal protection against unscrupulous roofers even though the roofers can get a lien placed against the property involved if the homeowner refuses to pay for poor work. — Stephen Lunsford
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Watchdog Dave Lieber of The Dallas Morning News is leader of Watchdog Nation, which shows Americans how to stand up for themselves and become super consumers.
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