KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Knoxville couple has filed criminal charges against a local contractor who was supposed to make improvements to their home, but never started the job.
WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Don Dare was notified by the couple last spring about the problem, who suggested they write a demand letter, which they did.
Under Tennessee state law, if a contractor either stops working or never starts the job after 90 days of signing the initial paper, you should write a “demand letter” to get the work underway or to receive your money back.
If nothing happens, the contractor could be charged with a felony.
That’s the action taken by a South Knoxville couple.
Mary Mount and her husband Clayton are disappointed in their home improvement contractor. A man they trusted.
George R. Caldwell, Jr. was charged with impersonating a licensed professional and home improvement provider. The story that prompted his arrest goes back to last fall.
Caldwell never screened in their backyard porch or constructed their deck. The Mounts hired a second contractor to build the wooden structure. He also never removed the old carpets. Resurfacing the bedroom ceilings didn’t get started either. Replacing old, sliding-closet doors were left undone.
“It’s a hard lesson to learn. This is actually the four page contract,” says Mary Mount. “That details all the work he was supposed to do. I gave him a deposit check for 9,374 dollars and 40 cents. He cashed it and said it would be a couple of weeks before he could get the framers out here to get started.”
It was Nov. 20 of last year when the couple hired Caldwell’s Impala Construction.
“Nothing happened, Thanksgiving came and went, Christmas came and went, New Years came and went. The weather got better,” Mary Mount said.
“And then … nothing. We would call and call, leave texts,” said Clayton Mount.
After the Mounts reached out to WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare, who called Caldwell, who then called the Mounts – he then came to their house, sat down and spoke with them in April.
“And I said, ‘are you going to do the job?’ He said, ‘I am'” says Clayton Mount. “That is what was left. We haven’t heard a word since.”
With their $27,000 contract broken, the couple wrote a demand letter to Caldwell.
When nothing happened, the Mounts called the police.
On Aug. 1, George Caldwell Jr. was arrested for allegedly swindling the couple of nearly $10,000 and impersonating a licensed professional. Documents show his contractor’s license expired in 2007.
“I will not be as trusting in the future as I have been due to the circumstances,” says Mary Mount.
Not too long ago, you would have to take a contractor to civil court — and take your chances on getting your money back — if the guy walked off the job. Now, however, if parameters are met criminal charges can be filed and if the defendant is found guilty and a judge can order the contractor to pay restitution.
“Because of the fact that we didn’t get the money back from him, we had to take another loan out,” said Mary Mount.
No trial date has been set yet for George R. Caldwell, Jr.
The hard lesson learned here for the Mounts was simple, after a complicated process.
“Hire a licensed contractor.There is a website you can go to. It will tell you who they are and if their license is up to date,” says Clayton Mount.
To find out if a contractor is licensed, you can find the information by contacting the Tennessee Dept. of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and by checking its website.