DAYTON - More than a year after the foundation was poured and the contractor was paid $19,000, Darrell and Karen Bair's family room is nothing more than the dirt ground and rebar sticking up out of the cement foundation.
"I look out the window every day, and I see what could have been and what it's not, and it literally makes me sick," said Karen Bair.
There's no family room with the bay windows and French doors. All the furniture they bought several years ago is still in storage.
Lyon County officials say there are a number of unlicensed contractors who are deceiving consumers and doing shoddy work, at a time when the county's housing boom is starting to slow.
"There are lots of people who are trying to do business out there that aren't licensed contractors," said Michael Bongard, Lyon County deputy district attorney. "The homeowners have to be aware of who they are dealing with. They need to check the background of people offering to do services for them."
That's the one thing the Bairs regret.
They said they assumed their contractor, Daniel Jackson, was legitimate because they met him through the company where they purchased their manufactured home. His paperwork looked official. They mistook a number listed at the bottom of their contract for his contractor's license number. It turned out just to be his business license number, the Bairs said. That contract mysteriously disappeared, along with the couple's life savings. Jackson had a partner , whom they've been unable to tie to the case.
Consumers can turn to the Nevada State Contractors Board for help, which is how the Bairs' case was investigated and where Jackson was ordered to pay restitution.
Lyon County District Attorney Leon Aberasturi said many consumers know their contractor isn't licensed, and when a problem arises there isn't much the DA's office will do about it in those cases.
"It becomes a problem with bringing the taxpayers' resources into a civil issue, that doesn't often happen," he said. "But if someone is lying and telling people they have a license, that's different. The contractor's board then asks us to prosecute."
Jackson has been charged with two felony counts and one gross misdemeanor count of illegal diversion of money, which is the least serious type of felony, the deputy DA said. Jackson is scheduled to appear at Dayton Justice Court today for a pre-trial conference.
Darrell Bair is disabled and living off Social Security. The Bairs haven't gotten their $19,000 back yet.
"I told him that is all the money I have in the world, and we were trying to build our dream house," he said about the contractor. "I can't go back to work, I told them. They said 'We'd never cheat you.' And I trusted them."
Nothing has changed on the 800-square-foot site since July 2005, except the grandkids kept tripping on the metal rods coming out of the ground, so Darrell Bair, 55, cut up Fun Noodles to use as padding.
The Bairs warn others to verify the contractor's license and keep all receipts.
The Nevada State Contractors Board urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a contractor:
• Hire only licensed contractors. Ask to see the license.
• Don't rush into decisions or hire without checking out potential contractors.
• Be especially wary when approached by someone offering home improvements door-to-door.
• Verify the contractor's licensed by checking online at www.nscb.state.nv.us or by automated phone service at (775) 688-1141.
• Ensure the contractor is properly licensed for the work you want done on your home.
• Limit the amount of your down payment or deposit to 10 percent of the total contract.
• Don't pay cash without obtaining signed receipts, and don't let the payments get ahead of the work.