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St. Louis, MO
Consumers Tell BBB: James Oates, Home Help Took Money, Left Jobs Unfinished
BBB warns consumers about James R. Oates and his company, Home Help, after consumers complained that he took thousands of dollars but never completed construction work.
June 24, 2014
James Oates
Oates

St. Louis, Mo., June 24, 2014Home Help, a Des Peres, Mo.-based contracting business run by James R. Oates, is facing complaints from consumers who say that Oates took thousands of dollars for construction projects, but never completed the work, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

In one case, a University City couple recently reported to BBB that they paid Oates $5,000 more than a year ago to buy building materials to add a sunroom to their home, but Oates never started the project.

“I don’t ever expect to see one penny again,” the wife said.

Home Help has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible. Oates is not answering the complaints and has not responded to several requests for information from BBB.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Oates has a responsibility to refund consumers’ money. “For Mr. Oates to take advantage of people like this is contemptible,” she said. “He made promises he did not keep and now he needs to make things right.”

Oates operates the business out of his Des Peres home in the 1400 block of Ridgefield Drive. BBB has attempted to contact Oates by phone and at his home, without success.

The University City woman said employees at a St. Louis area retailer recommended Oates and Home Help. She said she and her husband agreed to pay him $27,000 to build a sunroom for their home. He asked for $5,000 in March 2013 to buy building materials for the project, but never returned to the house.

The woman said that she last spoke to him in August 2013, and he agreed to start work the next day. She said he never came.

“If I can do anything, I would love to stop him from doing this to somebody who is less fortunate,” she said.

Johnny Taylor with unfinished project
Johnny Taylor of O'Fallon with the renovation at his home left unfinished by James Oates and his Home Help construction firm.

A homeowner from O’Fallon, Mo., said he hired Oates in August 2013 to renovate the lower level of his home. The man said he has paid Oates $28,000 of the total $35,000 contract price for the job, but Oates completed only a portion of the project before abandoning it. The homeowner said he has had to hire another contractor to complete the work, including redoing much of the work Oates already had done.

Two other consumers have received default judgments from judges in St. Louis County after suing Oates in connection with his contracting work.

In one of the cases, a judge awarded $5,000 to a contractor who said he paid Oates to buy drywall, siding and kitchen cabinets. He said Oates never delivered the items.
In the other case, a judge awarded more than $7,300 to a woman who said Oates caused extensive damage to her home by breaking a water line during a contracting job.

It appears that neither claim has been paid. Court records show that Oates did not appear for either case.

BBB offers the following tips when considering hiring a home repair contractor:

  • Don’t make a hasty decision. Take time to ensure the business is local and has a track record of reliable workmanship.
  • Ask the company for references and call those property owners. Ask them if the jobs were performed as agreed upon and whether they were satisfied with the results.
  • Ask whether the contractor has all required licenses and insurance. Ask your city whether they have had experience with the business.
  • Ask for a written contract and read it to ensure that everything discussed is included. Make sure it includes all details of the job including start and completion dates for the work.
  • Do not pay everything in advance. A portion of the payment can be made when the contract is signed, another portion when the work is under way and the final portion once the customer is satisfied with the completed project.
  • Research the business carefully before making a purchase. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

 

 

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