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posted: 2/7/2014 12:21 AM

Remodeling project abandoned by unlicensed contractor

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Q. We hired a contractor to remodel our home, but we didn't know he was not licensed. When the project was about 90 percent completed, he disappeared, and we eventually learned he was arrested on charges of fraud. We'd like to hire someone else to finish the job, but the work thus far was done without permits, so the whole situation is quite complicated. What do you think we should do?

A. The fraudulent, unlicensed contractor may or may not have made significant errors in the work that was done. That is what needs to be determined. Try to find a qualified contractor in your area with a solid reputation for quality workmanship and professional integrity (someone, of course, who is licensed). You might have a friend or relative who has had a good experience with a contractor and can give you a referral. You can also check online at Angie's List to see who has a good following in your area.

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Have the contractor assess the work that was done to see what is needed for completion. Then set up an appointment for you and your contractor to meet with someone at the local building department to discuss the details of the unpermitted work. Explain that you were unaware of the lack of a permit and that you mistakenly believed that the work was being done legally. Let the building official know you want to complete the project according to code.

Ask if you can take out an as-built permit and have the completed work evaluated and approved. Once they inspect the work, you and your contractor will know what needs to be done to satisfy all legal requirements.

Q. We nearly sold our home, but the deal fell through because of conditions that were reported by the buyers' home inspector. Unfortunately, we never got a copy of the inspection report, so we have no idea what is supposedly wrong with our home. If we don't know what the problems are, we can't fix them before putting our home back on the market.

Aren't we allowed to have a copy of the inspection report so we can see what killed the deal?

A. It is reasonable to expect a copy of the home inspection report, but that is not what decides the issue. Whether you are entitled to a copy is based entirely on the terms of the purchase contract between you and the buyers who canceled the sale. Real estate purchase contracts often specify that sellers are to receive copies of inspection reports, but that is not always the case.

Read the terms of the purchase contract to see if the buyers are required to give you a copy of the report. If so, you should insist they provide one. If the buyers' deposit is still held in escrow, you can make this a condition for canceling the escrow and releasing their deposit.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

Action Coast Publishing

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