MILWAUKEE — During the summer months, you may be thinking about get some remodeling done on your home. But what happens when the person you hired doesn't finish the work?
Penny Bigalke ran into that problem when she hired All City Contracting. The company and it's owner, Tim Futh, left her in a bind in the spring of 2015.
"We gave him a check for $19,727 on April 13th. After that, I spent weeks trying to call him," recalled Bigalke.
Bigalke's house is no ordinary home. She purchased a rooming house on Wells Street because she's a third-shift social worker who knows people need affordable transitional housing. The house has specific licensing requirements and is inspected by the city, which is why Bigalke needed to get work done and started to get concerned when she couldn't get a hold of her contractor.
"We need a new roof and the city had written us up for code violations for holes in the exterior of the house -- so not only is the money a problem -- I'm concerned we're going to lose the license to rent rooms — 15 to 17 people are gonna have to relocation," Bigalke explained.
The work was scheduled to start in May, but All City Contracting didn't show up until July. By that time, Bigalke was in jeopardy of losing her license.
"People were scared. And I, you know, was scared too," Bigalke said.
"I had to hire another contractor," Bigalke said.
However, All City Contracting still had her money.
In an attempt to get her money back, Bigalke did everything she was supposed to do. She kept great records, which included a potential lien on her house from a subcontractor who wasn't paid. Bigalke filed complaints with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau and the Milwaukee/National Association of the Remodeling Industry. She even went to the police, but no one could help her get her money back.
Finally, Bigalke wrote a letter to FOX6's Contact 6.
After receiving Bigalke's letter, Cravy tried to find Futh. She even knocked on the door of his business, but he wasn't there. While she didn't talk to him in person that day, she did see Futh driving by and, shortly after, he called her.
Cravy setup a meeting at FOX6 for Bigalke and Futh the following day.
"I haven't seen him since I handed him a check for $19,000 last April 2015," Bigalke said as she waited for Futh to arrive at the meeting.
Once Bigalke and Futh were in a room together, Cravy started asking questions.
"Do you feel for her at all?" Cravy asked Futh.
"I do. Absolutely, I do," Futh responded.
Bigalke then told Futh how she felt about the entire situation.
"You know, you're kinda not honest, Tim. If you would have just talk to me and we could have worked it out," Bigalke said. "You know, you're sending me texts that it's raining on a sunny day. And you're out of town. You're gonna come next Monday and I have to go, 'Monday is a holiday.' And, then you go 'Tuesday.' And I know you're lying. Don't do that," Bigalke added.
"I apologize," Futh said.
"You know, a lot times you can have a conversation, but I think you steamrolled me because you thought you could," Bigalke said.
"No," Futh responded.
Cravy asked Futh about court cases other customers have filed against him and why it takes people, like Bigalke, so long to get a hold of him.
"I guess not enough manpower," Futh responded.
By then end of the meeting, Bigalke and Futh talked it out while Cravy contacted the subcontractor to make sure no lien had been placed on Bigalke's home.
After it was all said and done, Futh paid Bigalke back $8,570.
"You accomplished in a little over a week what I couldn't accomplish in a year-and-a-half," Bigalke said.
When hiring a contractor, it's important to do you research ahead of time and know who you are working with. The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is a good resource to check out a business' rating and if other customers have had complaints.
"We offer the grades to help drill down into it. If there's a complaint, look at what the complaint is for. Was the complaint answered? Was it satisfied? So that's just a real snapshot. The information's there if you want to find it in any of our business reviews," explained Jim Temmer, president and CEO the Wisconsin BBB.
If you want even more information on a contractor, you can contact the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection to see if any complaints have been filed there as well. The Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection also offers a tip sheet on what you need to know before hiring a contractor. You can read that HERE.