KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Alison Vanderwerf said she was still mad at herself for hiring a man to build a fence at her home without first checking out his reputation online.

“That was definitely a mistake,” Vanderwerf said. “I should have Googled him.”

Instead, she hired Joe Letzig of Joe’s Fence Contractors knowing little about him other than how much money it would cost her to have him build her fence.

Letzig told Vanderwerf he could do the job for $4,800 but would need half of the money upfront for materials.

“Being optimistic, I went ahead and gave him the money, and then after that it was like trying to pull teeth,” Vanderwerf said.

For more than a month, she waited for work to begin. She became increasingly worried and called Letzig and told him she wanted her $2,400 back.

“There were no materials dropped off,” Vanderwerf said. “I had no proof of where my money was even going.”

Letzig appeared to take Vanderwerf’s demand for a refund seriously. A few days later, several men arrived at Vanderwerf’s home and started putting in posts.

But before that work was even finished, they disappeared.

It took multiple phone calls and another month of waiting before Vanderwerf was able to get the rest of the posts installed as well as a few fence boards — creating the outline of a fence, but not an actual fence.

She kept calling Letzig to find out when the rest of the job would be done.

“He wouldn’t contact me,” she said. “He wouldn’t message me.”

That’s when she demanded at least some of the money back that she’d given him, so that she could finish the job on her own. She requested $1,000 out of the $2,400 she paid him since Letzig had done some of the work.

Vanderwerf said Letzig grudgingly agreed, but that was several months ago.

“He hasn’t shown up or contacted me since,” she said.

But she discovered Letzig did have time to answer other people’s phone calls. Vanderwerf had her sister call Letzig and request a bid.

Letzig not only answered the phone, but also drove all the way to Vanderwerf’s sister’s home to provide a bid.

That’s when Vanderwerf called FOX4 Problem Solvers. She wasn’t sure she’d ever see the rest of her money and wanted to warn other people.

She also now knows to check out contractors online before hiring them. She quickly learned the truth about Letzig once she started Googling. 

Letzig has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. There we found multiple complaints from people who paid him, but never saw any work. Letzig responded to several of the complaints saying he still planned to do the work. One job he claimed to have already finished.

It’s hard to take Letzig at his word.

Even the Overland Park address listed on his business website is inaccurate. The address belongs to two other businesses, neither of whom have ever heard of Letzig or his company Joe’s Fence Contractors.

According to court records, Letzig’s company is actually based in Bates City, Missouri, and he’s got the lawsuits to prove it. Unfortunately, many of the people who have sued him have been unable to find him to serve him.

Court records are a great way to check out a business before signing a contract. Missouri lawsuits can be found on CaseNet. Search both the name of the contractor as well as the name of the business when looking to see whether they’ve been sued.

In Johnson County, Kansas, you can search for lawsuits on jococourts.org. Keep in mind that even good contractors can be sued, but multiple lawsuits against one small company can also be a red flag.

FOX4 Problem Solvers called Letzig to get his side of this dispute.

He acknowledged that he had promised to return $1,000 to Vanderwerf. He told us he would do it the following week. He kept his word. Vanderwerf now has her money and considers this a problem solved.

As for that wrong address on Letzig’s website, he told us it was just a mistake, but three weeks after we pointed out the mistake, it was still not corrected.