Archived Story

Contractor sentenced, pleads ‘no contest’

Published 10:46am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Edwardsburg homeowner Nancy Fantetti points out where renovations on her home were lacking. The contractor hired to do the work, Charles Lewis recently pled "no contest" to charges of operating without a license. He was sentenced Friday. (Daily Star Photo/JESSICA SIEFF)
Edwardsburg homeowner Nancy Fantetti points out where renovations on her home were lacking. The contractor hired to do the work, Charles Lewis recently pled "no contest" to charges of operating without a license. He was sentenced Friday. (Daily Star Photo/JESSICA SIEFF)

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

CASSOPOLIS – Charles Lewis, who in November was facing charges of operating as an unlicensed builder stemming from a heated dispute with client Nancy Fantetti over a remodeling project of her Edwardsburg home, was sentenced last week in a Cass County courtroom.

Lewis pleaded “no contest” to the charges and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, complete 20 hours of community service and will be on probation for a total of five months.

He faces 50 days of jail time if he fails to adhere to any of those stipulations.

Back in November, Lewis told Leader Publications that he had done nothing wrong while working on Fantetti’s house, which included building an addition on to the structure.

He admitted that he did not hold a license in the state of Michigan, something Fantetti was aware of at the time she hired him.

“I had to go to jail,” Lewis said, having turned himself in following a warrant for his arrest.
“I have nothing to flee from,” he added. “I have done nothing wrong.”

Fantetti paid more than $68,000 for work done on her home by Lewis. When all was said and done, the money she’d saved especially for renovations for her home had resulted in a rooftop so lacking in ventilation, the beams were covered in mold, siding seemed to be falling off the house and there was evidence of uneven trim and unmatched coloring of exterior siding, as well as improperly operating and installed door locks.

Fantetti called the entire situation “a very hard, very expensive lesson.”

A lesson that might just save homeowners in the future.

As the weather warms, many homeowners may begin considering renovation projects to their own homes.

The National Association of Home Builders provides a wealth of information for homeowners at their web site, www.nahb.org as well as a checklist when hiring a builder or contractor.

The following are things to keep in mind when hiring a builder or contractor for home projects:
- Does the builder or remodeler have a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers?
- How long have they been in the building business? It usually takes three to five years to establish a financially sound business. Will they be around after the construction is complete to service any warranties?
- Have you called your local Better Business Bureau? They can alert you to any complaints.
- Does the builder/remodeler have sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance? If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises.
- Will the builder/remodeler provide you with names of previous customers? Ask them if they would hire the builder/remodeler again.
- Have you seen the builder/remodelers work, both completed and in progress? Check for quality of workmanship and materials.
- Are you able to communicate with the builder/remodeler? Remember you will be in close contact with them throughout the construction process and afterward as you live in your new home.
- Will the builder/remodeler provide you with a complete and clearly written contract? The contract will benefit both of you. Review it carefully.
- Be cautious of unusually low-priced bids. If the builder/remodeler is unable to pay for the materials and labor as the project proceeds, this may indicate a potential problem.

Source: National Association of Home Builders, www.nahb.org.

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