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Who's In Your House?

May 4, 2014, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Who's In Your House?

They may not be the kind of people you would want to invite into your home or be around your children. But you could be inviting sex offenders or child predators into your house and not even know it.

Lisa Schultz of Sioux Falls makes a living flipping houses.

"I just have to put in a shower, vanity and toilet," Schultz said.

While she does a lot of the work herself, she can't do it all. 

So she hires a licensed contractor to do work that needs to meet certain specifications to meet code. Sometimes she knows the contractors, sometimes not.

"It can be a scary scenario that you put yourself into, but the reality is you have to trust your instincts," Schultz said.

Her instincts tell her to be careful who she invites into her home.

"Yes I do consider that because I am a single woman," Schultz said.

She's right to trust her instincts. There are literally thousands of convicted sex offenders in the state and while they are required to register, there are no restrictions that keep sex offenders from becoming licensed contractors who work in private homes. That scares Schultz, who lives alone.

"That would be a deal breaker for me, because of the situation I'm in," Schultz said.

There are hundreds of reputable and honest licensed contractors in Sioux Falls.  But when KELOLAND News did an extensive search of licensed contractors in the city and then cross referenced those with the long list of registered sex offenders in both Lincoln and Minnehaha counties.

We found one person who's on both lists.

Jeffrey Melow, is a licensed mechanical contractor and also a registered sex offender. In 1989 he was convicted of raping a ten-year-old girl.

We tried to ask Melow about being on both lists. But he didn't return several calls and didn't answer the door when we went to the address listed for him on the both the Sex Offender Registry and the City's licensed contractors list.

Checking a contractor out before you hire them is good advice.

"Get information from neighbors, from people where this contractor has worked before," Ron Bell of Sioux Falls' Building Services said.

Ron Bell of Sioux Falls Building Services says licensed contractors don't have to provide information about their criminal pasts, because there's no ordinance requiring background checks. 

The only thing the City is concerned about is whether the contractor has the training and experience to perform the work they are hired to do.

"I got to stress, homeowners who are hiring contractors do need to do their leg work to make sure who they are hiring is going to be a reputable person to do the work they choose to have done at the house," Bell said.

Even though we only found one match, Bell says people shouldn't let their guard down, because there are lots of other workers entering your homes who could be sex offenders.

"There's no verification that the City does for sub-contractors who come on to a person's property," Bell said.

That worries Schultz.

"Let's just say it's a busy time of year for him and he needs to hire additional staff, I don't know those people," Schultz said.

Because she doesn't know them, she takes every precaution she can to protect herself.

"I know everybody has the ability to redeem themselves, but once again, given the situation I'm in I have to protect myself," Schultz said.

To learn more about hiring a contractor and what questions to ask, click here.


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