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NBC 10 I-Team: Avoiding a problem contractor

A South Kingstown homeowner claimed he was taken by Rhode Island contractor, Frank Martin, doing business under the name of Burgess Environmental for about $2,000. (WJAR)

Nothing can be more personal than letting a contractor into your home and into your own space.

Sometimes it can go badly.

The NBC 10 I-Team shared James Pansarasa's story on Thursday. The South Kingstown homeowner claimed he was taken by Rhode Island contractor, Frank Martin, doing business under the name of Burgess Environmental for about $2,000.

The I-Team has followed complaints against Martin for nearly two years. He was arrested by Rhode Island State Police in 2016 and faces 17 charges in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts for forgery, larceny, and counterfeiting.

“I'm just afraid Frank is still out there,” said Pansarasa. “Who is the next person? Where is Frank Martin today? What job site is Frank Martin at? That's frightening. That's absolutely frightening.”

In Rhode Island, contractors need to have valid registrations. All their credentials are monitored by the Contractors Registration and Licensing Board in Providence. It's where the I-Team went for answers, asking how you can keep a problem contractor from coming into your house?

“It is so difficult, but the first thing I tell people is you got to research the contractor before you start or sign any contract,” said Executive Director George Whalen.

Here are some tips to prevent headaches:

  • A simply Google search goes a long way. If a contractor was part of an NBC 10 I-Team story, you’d see it online.
  • Log onto the website of the contractor's registration and licensing board. Is the contractor registered? Are there any claims against the company? Is their insurance current?
  • Call your local building officials, as they know the good contractors and can steer you from the bad ones.

Experts never recommend paying in full or even three quarters of the job up front. It’s recommended to be specific about payment terms in writing, so both parties are comfortable.

“The biggest thing I tell people is you need to have a written contract,” Whalen said. “That is the key issue here.”

Click here to learn more.

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