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Sedgwick County DA warns about unlicensed construction contractors

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, June 27, 2013, at 9:55 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 28, 2013, at 12:01 p.m.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Jeff Vap's name.

Residents should beware of unscrupulous building contractors, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett warned at a briefing Thursday, a week after a contractor was convicted on four counts of felony theft by deception.

Jeff Vap, owner of Quality Construction and Remodeling, took more than $22,000 from four different homeowners in Wichita and Goddard in the fall of 2011 and 2012, Bennett said.

The cases involved two roofing jobs, a room addition and a new concrete patio. One homeowner had been the victim of storm damage.

In all cases, the homeowners paid the full amount of the projects up front, and the work was never completed, Bennett said. On three of the projects, Vap had claimed to be licensed, but wasn’t, he said.

Vap still faces trial on an accusation that he took $10,000 for a building project in rural Sedgwick County this year.

Bennett said the DA’s office takes these crimes seriously.

“While they don’t carry the same import in the public’s mind as rape and murder, they have the full attention of this office,” Bennett said.

Bennett and Wichita Area Builders Association President Wess Galyon, who also attended the briefing, said homeowners should take time to check out prospective contractors when planning a construction project.

They should start by asking the contractors how long they’ve been in business, where they are located, what types of work they have done, and whether they have a license and insurance. Copies of licenses and insurance certificates should be obtained. Homeowners also should get references.

Bennett and Galyon recommended contacting the consolidated Wichita/Sedgwick county code enforcement office to find out whether a contractor has a license. Homeowners can get more information and advice from the builders association, the Better Business Bureau, and their insurance carriers, they said.

“It doesn’t take very long to do all these things we’re talking about,” Galyon said. “An hour or two, you can generally run this information down and then make a more informed decision.”

“An hour or two up front will save you a lot of trouble down the road,” Bennett said.

Homeowners shouldn’t pay the full amount of the project up front, they said.

“I would never recommend giving anybody all of it at one time,” Galyon said. “Once they have it, they have it. They can be out of sight and out of mind, and you’ll probably not get your money back.”

Unscrupulous contractors also prey on the elderly and on storm victims anxious to rebuild their lives quickly. Galyon urged people hit by storms to take time to do research. Reputable contractors don’t pressure victims of a disaster to act fast.

“Take control of the dialogue that you’re having, You’re the property owner. Don’t be intimidated by what’s going on at the moment,” he said. “Get the information, step back and check it out.”

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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