ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando family found out how unlicensed contractors can wreck your home. One company destroyed their roof, then ran away with their cash.
The family also claims police and state regulators offered little help.
Louise Gagney feared losing her home after an unlicensed roofer ripped off the old shingles, exposing bare wood, than disappeared with her cash.
"I fell right into their trap," said Gagney.
The contractor's license was a fake. And police told Gagney it was a civil matter.
"I feel stupid because I should have known," said Gagney.
She complained to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation that oversees contractors, hoping the state could stop the company from striking again.
Action 9 found unlicensed roofers openly advertise with little fear of the consequences. We found a dozen on just one site and called several. .
Tommy Brown Roofing arrived at Action 9's test home after our volunteer asked about roof work. They gave us a $2,000 estimate.
The volunteer was told that the contractor did not have a license, but the company was still going to do the job until Action 9's Todd Ulrich started asking questions.
"Hey guys. Todd Ulrich, Channel 9. Can I check your state license?" Ulrich asked.
There were no answers, and the company left.
Even state action doesn't stop many companies.
M&M Handyman showed up at the test home. The company's owner, Mike McKenna, had already been issued two cease and desist orders for unlicensed roofing.
"The state told you to stop, but here you are?" said Ulrich.
"No. I don't do the whole roof," said McKenna.
Actually, state law requires a state license for any contractor doing roof work.
"Aren't you putting people at risk?" asked Ulrich.
"I've been doing this for 30 years," said McKenna.
Action 9 reviewed hundreds of state complaints since 2010, and found at least 80 unlicensed contractors were fined two or more times.
And Gagney's roofer is still on the run.
"They took my dignity as well as my roof and my money," she said.
The governor is expected to sign a law that will raise unlicensed contractor fines from $500 to $2,000 since there are so many repeat offenders.
When hiring, insist on seeing a contractor's state license number and verify it online.