Always ask questions before hiring a contractor.
The Better Business Bureau on Thursday issued an alert warning Missourians not to enter into a business deal with Missouri Fence Company-Springfield LLC, owned by Republic resident Justin Schmidt, without exercising caution.
The BBB reported that over the summer, multiple consumers sent complaints that Missouri Fence Company failed to start projects, didn’t issue refunds when services weren’t rendered and offered poor customer service.
For example, a woman living in Clever told BBB she gave Schmidt’s company a $4,800 down payment in March. Schmidt never built her a fence, BBB said.
The now-defunct Springfield location of Missouri Fence Company was photographed on Oct. 1, 2020. The Better Business Bureau issued an alert warning consumers to exercise caution when working with the company, which the BBB says did not always perform services or issue refunds when requested. (Photo: Gregory Holman/Springfield News-Leader)
A woman living in Springfield told BBB she gave Schmidt’s company a $4,257 down payment in June. Schmidt never provided a start date to the client, BBB said, and the client had little success reaching Schmidt for progress updates.
Issues include civil suit, unanswered calls
Online court records and public statements by the company show Missouri Fence Company has faced other issues this year.
On May 15, Meek Lumber Yard LLC in Mt. Vernon field a civil suit against Schmidt and one of his companies doing business as Missouri Fence Co. A bench trial is scheduled for next week in Lawrence County.
Cached Google search results show that on July 9 Schmidt’s company took to Facebook to air its telephone-system woes.
“Hello everyone!” a post on the now-defunct Facebook page read. “Our phone system has been down. If you have tried to get ahold of us and have not been able to reach anyone, we apologize!”
Two days later, the cached search results show that Schmidt’s company went back to Facebook to promote a Republic-area project that was “being completed.” The post was made during the same period when BBB says little if anything was happening on the jobs the women in Clever and Springfield had paid for.
Missouri Fence Company’s July 11 posting also stated, “It’s been a crazy time with supplies Springfield, Mo!” and said that the company was “short-staffed.”
BBB said that as of late August, the company’s advertised West Chestnut Expressway location in Springfield was defunct. The News-Leader visited on Thursday afternoon, finding missed-delivery tags from FedEx addressed to Schmidt and a large cobweb covering the front door. Vacant offices were visible through the windows.
Missed-delivery tags from FedEx were placed on the door of the now-defunct Springfield location of Missouri Fence Company on Oct. 1, 2020. The Better Business Bureau issued an alert warning consumers to exercise caution when working with the company, which the BBB says did not always perform services or issue refunds when requested. (Photo: Gregory Holman/Springfield News-Leader)
The company’s state registration documents lists the company’s place of business at Schmidt’s personal residence in Republic. Schmidt also owns a company called JMS Lawn & Home Services, which on July 28 moved its registered place of business from the address of a suburban St. Louis co-working space to Schmidt’s home in Republic, according to state records.
The News-Leader reached out to Missouri Fence Company for comment on BBB’s alert, using two phone numbers tied to the company; both were disconnected. Messages sent to three email accounts tied to Schmidt and the company were not immediately returned. The company’s website now redirects to a residential construction company based in western Canada that does not appear to have any Missouri ties.
Tips for hiring a contractor
Better Business Bureau offered practical tips for people planning to hire a contractor, including using the bbb.org website to check out a company.
The watchdog group also suggested that consumers:
- Ask for references and contact them before signing any contract;
- Before paying money, have a signed contract that specifically says what work is to be done, when the contractor is supposed to do it, and what happens if the business or consumer reneges on the agreement;
- Ask the contractor for proof that he or she is bonded and insured;
- Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment;
- Pay only a portion of the balance due at the time the contract is signed, then make final payment only after work is complete and satisfactory; and
- When work is completed and the contractor has been paid, request lien waivers showing subcontractors and material suppliers have been paid for the job.
It is also possible to use publicly-funded services like Missouri Case.net to check if a company or its owner face civil lawsuits and to ask the Missouri Attorney General’s office of consumer protection whether a company has been the subject of complaints sent to state authorities.
Gregory Holman is the investigative reporter for the News-Leader. Email news tips to [email protected] and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing. Learn more by visiting News-Leader.com/subscribe.
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