SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- New home buyers in Tennessee are getting more protection in case a contractor tries to take advantage of them.
A state law was just amended to allow contractors to be charged with theft if they take money to build a new house but do not finish it and do not return the money. The law already allows people hired to perform home improvement services to be charged in similar situations.
Sullivan County homeowner Kim Taylor worked for more than a year to get justice against a local plumber. She accused him of taking thousands of dollars from her to build her a new house but said he did not do it and accused him of performing unlicensed contractor work. Her case ended in a conviction earlier this year but Taylor said it was difficult getting the legal process started.
“I went through at least a year, probably a year and a half before I could even get anybody to listen to understand that this was a criminal act,” Taylor said. She said she contacted local law enforcement, researched laws and even filed a state complaint against the plumber before criminal charges were filed by the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office.
“i think it is a step in the right direction,” Deputy District Attorney General Gene Perrin said about the amended law, which went into effect July 1. “It has expanded the class of people that can bring an action to those entered into a contract for new home construction.”
Several conditions have to be met before potential charges can be filed under the amended law. The home buyer must demand a refund of monies paid in a written or certified letter. The home buyer must also file a state complaint against the contractor. Also, a substanial portion of the work must not be completed at the time of the request and the contractor must have stopped working for more than 90 days.
Perrin hopes the law will protect more people, but said each case will have to be reviewed on its own set of facts. “This particular area still requires that there be that intent to steal, that intent to divert and we have to prove that beyond all reasonable doubt,” Perrin said.
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