Ripped off by a contractor? You're not alone.

How many homeowners do you know who have been ripped off by a builder, carpenter, or other contractor? I bet just about all of them will say they fell victim to a contractor at one point: either not receiving any services for their money, or getting a shoddy work product.

Over the last year, I experienced contractor drama of my own. A friend referred me to a very talented carpenter. I had seen some of his work and was very impressed. Except the carpenter had some business problems. He had several court judgments outstanding and had a history of finishing projects late. But my friend assured me the carpenter had turned over a new leaf and the hard times were a thing of the past.

I met with the contractor and he was eager to draw up plans for my project. I approved the plans, and he asked for half of the total cost as a downpayment so he could purchase materials and begin the project. That was almost a year ago, and he never purchased materials and never started the project.