COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Looking for a contractor to renovate his Licking County home last year, Chase Merriam searched for companies, compared costs, checked references, and in August, hired Pure Renovation Construction, LLC — owned by Justin Woosley.

“Sent a quote immediately, seemed to know what he was talking about, said that everything we wanted, he could do,” said Merriam.

The two signed a contract, and Merriam paid Woosley more than $11,000 to renovate the house and the garage.

“Since we had a contract signed by both parties, I kind of felt comfortable doing it,” said Merriam.

The crew started on the garage just after Labor Day.

“From then on, it was hit and miss,” said Merriam. “They would come for two days, then the weekend would hit, we would come and expect them on Monday, they wouldn’t come back until Wednesday, Thursday.”

But at the end of September —

“I got an email, saying that he was closing his business,” said Merriam. “He told me that my project would be finished. I would be one of the last projects that he finished.”

But Merriam said Woosley took his money, didn’t complete the work as promised, and started a new company.

“I pulled up all the documents from his LLCs, and he had started another business, the day before he closed his previous business.”

Merriam said he met with several attorneys, who advised him to not take legal action against Pure Renovation Construction, LLC.

“If the LLC doesn’t have any assets to go after, then it’s kind of pointless to proceed from there,” said Merriam. “It seems like the contractor’s protected, but the client or the people that gave the money are not.”

I spoke with Dan Meyers, a consumer rights attorney, about Merriam’s situation.

“As a consumer, as a homeowner, you can’t always protect yourself from contractors that are going to take your money and run off,” said Meyers.

But Meyers said Merriam does have some options moving forward.

“Under a few different consumer protection laws in Ohio, consumers can sue not only the contractor, the company that rips them off, but sometimes the owners, officers, directors of that company, too,” said Meyers. “It could be that they chose to shut down their company, and not perform the rest of the work. These are things that could potentially get the owner of the company on the hook, individually.”

I reached out to Woosley several times but have not heard back. Merriam said he already hired another company to complete the work on his home.

If you’re planning to hire a contractor, Meyers offered some guidance to help protect yourself and your money:

  • Look up that contractor; not just online reviews, but local court records to see if he/she has been sued.
  • Check with the Secretary of State to make sure the business exists.
  • Check with the local building department to make sure the business is registered and licensed.
  • If you make a payment to a contractor up front, get a receipt to prove the amount paid.