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August 1, 2019

Des Moines contractor banned from home-repair business

This Des Moines house remains unfinished, even though the customer gave contractor Dale Terry $28,800 to do repairs. Terry provided no repairs beyond demolishing a basement floor and wall, leaving the house in worse shape.

This Des Moines house remains unfinished, even though the customer gave contractor Dale Terry $28,800 to do repairs. Terry provided no repairs beyond demolishing a basement floor and wall, leaving the house in worse shape.

 

Terry used position as pastor to get customers, A.G. alleges

DES MOINES — A Des Moines contractor has been banned from doing any home-repair or construction business in Iowa after taking more than $50,000 from consumers but failing to finish the jobs.

Dale Gordon Terry and his business, Terry’s Contractors, were accused in a lawsuit by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office of violating the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act and the Door-to-Door Sales Act. The allegations include making misrepresentations about home repairs; accepting money but failing to provide services to agreed specifications; and, in some cases, leaving homes in worse conditions. 

Terry admitted the violations in a consent judgment, which was signed by Polk County District Judge Samantha Gronewald. The judgment permanently enjoins Terry from operating any business that provides home repairs or contractor services, and it orders him to repay $51,875 to nine customers.

Eight of the customers were low-income homeowners who had suffered flood damage. Terry received state disaster relief funds through IMPACT Community Action Partnership, a nonprofit group, to help them. In each case, Terry failed to complete the contract or provided substandard work.

Another customer paid Terry $28,800 to extensively rehabilitate his home. Instead, Terry provided no repairs beyond demolishing a basement floor and wall, leaving the house in worse shape.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office also alleged that Terry used his position as an unsalaried pastor at a Des Moines church to make contacts for his business. Terry “regularly made reference to his position as a pastor and presented consumers with a business card identifying him as ‘senior pastor’ for a local church,” the state’s petition alleged.

The Attorney General’s Office gave Terry opportunities to resolve consumer complaints by completing the contracts, but Terry failed to do so.

Terry has been offering and selling home repair and contractor services for at least 17 years, but he first registered as a contractor with Iowa Workforce Development in October 2018. Terry’s Contractors is not registered with the Iowa Secretary of State as a business in any capacity.

Terry has 32 open building permits in Polk County dating back to 2002. He also was fined $4,540 by the Iowa Department of Public Health for lead abatement violations. 

How to avoid getting scammed

Here’s advice for homeowners looking to get a home-repair job done right: 

Make your plan clear. Before looking for a contractor, think about your project. Consider writing down a proposed project description, including the quality of materials that you expect the contractor to use, so a contractor is clear about the scope of project and type of materials. Check with your city or county on required inspections and building permits.
 
Check references before you sign a contract or make a down payment. The best kind of reference comes from someone you know and trust. Ask who they have hired for their projects and whether they were satisfied. Ask the contractor you’re thinking of hiring for local references and contact them. Check for complaints filed with the Consumer Protection Division (515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590) and check the Better Business Bureau’s complaint database at www.bbb.org. It’s a red flag if a contractor is not listed in the local telephone directory or provides only a post office box and not a street address.

To see if a contractor has been sued or filed a lawsuit, go to: www.iowacourts.state.ia.us. To verify a contractor’s registration and bonding (which does not guarantee quality of work or payment of damages if a dispute arises with the contractor), go to: www.iowaworkforce.org/labor. Ask the contractor for a copy of a liability insurance certificate.
 
Get the contract in writing. Before work begins, agree on a written contract. Include the work to be done, the brand and/or the specifications of the materials to be used, the price, who is responsible for obtaining permits and scheduling inspections. Insist that all change orders must be in writing and establish who is responsible for cleanup. Include start and completion dates, and the remedies if the contractor fails to meet them. (Example: The contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.) If you’re filing an insurance claim to cover the costs of damages, negotiate the details of the repairs with your insurance company directly and not through a contractor. If you sign a contract somewhere other than the contractor's regular place of business, such as at your home, you have three business days to cancel the contract without penalty. Most important, read the contract before you sign it.
 
Look into financing through local banks or credit unions rather than a contractor. Compare loan terms, and don’t let anyone pressure you into signing a loan document. Do not deed your property to anyone.

The Attorney General’s website contains more advice on avoiding home-improvement problems.

If you feel you’ve been wronged, file a complaint with the Iowa Attorney General. Call 515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area) or email consumer@ag.iowa.gov.

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