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Consumer Alert: Hiring Contractors

November 15, 2012, 9:50 PM by Angela Kennecke

Consumer Alert: Hiring Contractors

You take a leap of faith when you hire someone to come into your home to do some work.  But there are some steps you can take to check out a contractor before you let them in.

Homeowner Tim Mikkels wanted to hire someone to paint a couple of bedrooms, so he started looking online.

"I go on Craigslist, I do a little Googling like we all do.  I find this guy.  He's got a professional website. I call him. He's one of the first to return my calls.   I usually get three quotes. He runs right out, looks at the job and says, 'I'd love to do it,'" Mikkels said.

That guy was Michael Monmaney.  He wrote up an estimate and Mikkels hired him. 

"My first tip off should have been he shows up three hours late on the job, which I thought was a little weird, but I was giving the guy the benefit of the doubt," Mikkels said.

Monmaney told Mikkels he lost his wallet and that's why he was late.

"Number two, he didn't have a paint pan.  He said, 'Do you have a paint pan I can borrow?' I said, 'You don't have a paint pan and you're a painter?'" Mikkels said.

But Mikkels got him a paint pan. 

"I come back an hour or so later and he had a radio of mine he was playing and I said, 'Hey, is that my radio?'  I said, 'Where did you find that?'  He said, 'In your storage room.'  So he had to go dig in my storage room to find my radio. It's all getting a little creepy now," Mikkels said.

Mikkels says then he noticed the drop cloths. 

"I started looking at the sheet and I go, 'Wow, that sheet looks a little like my sheet,'" Mikkels said.

A trip to his linen closet confirmed his suspicions.  But Monmaney told him he had the same sheets in his truck.  So Mikkels asked him to go get them.

"He paints and I'm watching him and he says, 'Okay, I'll go get those sheets,' and he runs out to his pickup; gets in his truck and peels away," Mikkels said.

"The wallet.  No painters pan.  Stealing my radio out of my closest and finally the sheets.  You add it all up and it's a mess," Mikkels said.

After a more extensive Internet search, Mikkels turned up several negative online reviews of Monmaney's work.  And he has an "F" rating by the Better Business Bureau for not responding to complaints.

But it doesn't end there.  There are two warrants out for Monmaney's arrest in South Dakota.  One for Petty Theft by Deception and another for felony charges for engaging in business as a contractor without getting the required Contractors' Excise Tax License. 

We were able to reach Monmaney by phone and he told us he is currently in Blue Earth, Minnesota.  Monmaney denied any wrong doing and says he paid his excise tax.

Monmaney: It was taken care of. I paid them. 
Angela Kennecke: You paid the department of revenue? 
Monmaney: I did. 

Kennecke: You don't know anything about this theft by deception charge against you?
Monmaney: I do not.

And all those bad online reviews?  Monmaney says they were written by jealous competitors.

The lesson in all this, says the head of South Dakota's Attorney General Consumer Protection Office, is to thoroughly check out any contractor's background and make sure you call all their references.

"If it was shoddy work, you can file a complaint with our office. If you've given the money up front and nothing, service was not received, our office can look at those as well," Head of Consumer Protection Jody Swanson said.

Mikkels wishes he hadn't been so eager to give Monmaney the job.

"He's just a scary guy," Mikkels said.

You can check to make sure a contractor is licensed with the city, but the problem is certain contractors, those who install flooring, cabinets, or painters, are not required to get a city license.  The Department of Revenue says you can also call its office to make sure a contractor has an excise tax license. 

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