Unlicensed builder charged criminally in botched roof job

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IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — One day after Target 8 exposed a contractor accused of preying on an Ionia couple, prosecutors charged him with operating without a residential builder’s license.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Dennis Upton, 24, could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and/or face a fine of $5,000 to $25,000.

Records show Upton has posted a $2,500 bond. A court date is pending.

The charge stems from a botched roofing job that was the subject of a Target 8 alert last week.

Randy and Denise Shattuck hired Upton Quality Construction out of Potterville to rebuild their roof in January after posting the job on Facebook. Five weeks into the job that was supposed to take four days, the Shattucks paid Upton in full, giving him $11,000. That’s when Upton disappeared, leaving behind a mess of shingles, nails and trash.

“If it wasn’t for my faith, I don’t know where I’d be,” Denise Shattuck told Target 8 through tears. “Because I have so much anger towards him and his company, it’s not funny.”

When Upton wouldn’t respond to the Shattucks’ repeated calls, they called Target 8 and Ionia’s building inspector. The inspector told the Shattucks that Upton hadn’t pulled the required permits and, after examining the roof, he determined it the work wasn’t built to code.

“He was amazed,” Shattuck said of the inspector’s reaction to the poor roof work. “Just stunned.”

The inspector told the Shattucks they will have to have the roof ripped out and redone. It will be a struggle to come up with the money on top of the $11,000 they already paid Upton.

“My husband is on disability and I work, but I don’t make a fortune by any means,” Shattuck said.

The Shattucks say the quotes they’ve gathered for the project so far have all run around $20,000.

If you’d like to help the Shattucks, there are pages set up on two different fundraising sites. The Shattuck’s daughter set up a fund on YouCaring and a woman who saw the Shattuck’s story was moved to help set up an account on GoFundMe.

The Shattucks hope you’ll learn from their experience and thoroughly check a contractor’s background before you hire.

They thought they had taken the right steps when they made Upton show them proof of liability insurance. But they didn’t notice that he had bought the policy the day before he showed it to them. They also did not check with the state to make sure he was licensed, which he is not. In addition, the Shattucks did not require references or check with customers who had used Upton on projects similar to theirs in the past.

Here are the critical steps consumers advocates say you should take before you hire a contractor:

  • Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.
  • Talk to prior customers to find out if they were satisfied with the contractor’s work
  • Make sure the customers with whom you check used the contractor for projects similar in nature to the one you’re having done
  • Check online to make sure the contractor — and any subcontractors they may use — are licensed and insured.
  • Call the local building department and make sure the contractor pulled the proper permits.
  • Sign a contract.

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