Okay, I wanted to share my experience here because I hope that it will help other people when hiring a contractor. My brother, who is disabled hired a contractor, and was swindled out of a lot of money. I found out about it only after he gave them most of the money and was not able to stop any of the payments.
I don't really want to go into all of the messy details of my ordeal, but I will give you some warnings. First, a contractors license means very little! The contractor that ripped off my brother had a clear license, and it still looks clear today if you check out the contractor's state license board. However this contractor has been referred for prosecution, and it's recommended that they lose their license. You have to know to click on the correct link on the state license board page (that doesn't mention anything about disciplinary action BTW) to find this out.
Second, don't think that the state license board is going to do much to help you. I filed a complaint, went through their negotiator, and it still took several months for them to investigate anything. I was told that the investigators offices are flooded with complaints, and that the amount of money my brother (who is disabled, I forgot to mention) lost is minimal compared to some of the complaints they receive. Well, this money was not minimal to him. Even after the investigation, I was told that there was nothing the state license board could do to get his money back or fix his house. I also found out that the quality of the work they did matters very little to the contractors license board. Even though they used the cheapest products, installed them very poorly, AND tried to do the job without permits, they only thing the license board cared about was the permits.
Third, permit inspectors can't do much either! They can only make people do things to minimum code, and they don't care how much you paid a contractor to do it. My brother gave the contract over $20,000 in less than 7 days, all in checks under $5000, because that is what the contractor asked for. Why? So the bank would not put a hold on the check and there would be no waiting period to fund the checks.
Fourth, a bonded company means very little , if anything. In our state a contractor only has to have a bond for $12,500. That's total, not per job, not per contract either. $12,500 TOTAL for the whole company! So if they do a $50,000 job for you their bond is only for $12,500. If you file a claim against them you can only get $12,500 back, even if your claim is for $100,000. And if they do 10 jobs for ten people, and all ten of them file a claim, they all 10 have to get just a portion of the $12,500. And all the company has to do to get another bond is pay the bond company back the $12,500. No questions asked!
The Better Business Bureau is no better. This contractor had an A- rating, despite the fact that they had 4 complaints against them, and had only been in business 3 years. And I found out that they had 4 small claims lawsuits that they lost. And don't think that you can just hire a lawyer and sue the contractor. Lawyers cost about $300 per hour, and at that rate you could pay twice what you paid to the contractor to you lawyer just to sue them.
Bottom line is buyer be ware. Investigate your contractor and the laws in your state before you do anything.