Odenton home improvement contractor ordered to stop working in Howard

The Baltimore Sun

An unlicensed Anne Arundel County home improvement contractor who is alleged to have walked off a $126,000 Clarksville job before completion has been ordered to stop operating in Howard County, according to county consumer affairs officials.

James Martz III, owner of M&A; Construction in Odenton, lost his state home improvement license in 2003 and has had 30 complaints filed against him over the past nine years, according to Rhonda Wardlaw, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Home Improvement Commission.

Martz also was found guilty three years ago in District Court of a criminal violation in Baltimore County for operating without a license. He was ordered to pay $34,000 in restitution and also received a 30-day suspended jail term, said Steven Smitson, executive director of the state commission. Smitson was unsure whether the restitution had been paid.

The new order was imposed by Howard authorities after a customer complained about Martz's work on a Clarksville home, said Rebecca Bowman, administrator of the county's Office of Consumer Affairs.

In Maryland, it is illegal to perform home improvement work without a state license.

Smitson said Martz's license expired in 2003, but the commission also suspended it because he had failed to reimburse the state's guarantee fund for money paid to his former customers for poor work he performed.

Despite all that, Martz was hired to complete a large addition, finish a basement, build a garage and renovate several bathrooms in a Clarksville home, Bowman said. He was paid $112,000, but completed only 75 percent of the work before walking off the job after disputes over workmanship, she added.

"Using an unlicensed contractor is a recipe for disaster," said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

Martz disappeared, Bowman said, and would not return phone calls. His phone line at 501 Bruce Ave. in Odenton had been disconnected when a reporter called Tuesday.

"It took a long time to find him" to serve the cease-and-desist order, Bowman said. Violation of the order can result in a civil fine of $500 per incident.

"We will attempt to get restitution for the rest of the job," Bowman said. "Our main interest is to get the word out so no one else is victimized."

Before hiring a contractor, people should verify that the person is licensed, check references and also check with state and county agencies and with the Better Business Bureau to see whether a record of complaints exists, Bowman said. Customers should never pay more than one-third of the total price up front.

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