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Brighton daycare owner out $52k after unknowingly hiring unlicensed contractor to finish basement

Isabella Maria Caro-Preiss says "contractor" never pulled permits
Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center
Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center
Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center
Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 10:44:36-04

BRIGHTON, Colo. — What started as a dream for Isabella Maria Caro-Preiss has quickly faded into a nightmare scenario.

“It’s very heartbreaking,” she said. “There were times I cried every day."

Her vision to expand her small in-home daycare called Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center has temporarily come crashing down.

“It started as really small things,” Caro-Preiss said. “I would talk to the contractor and I would ask questions like, 'When is inspector going to be here?' I finally asked him if he pulled a permit, and he started getting mad at me. He said, 'I never told you I would pull a permit,' And I said, 'Yes, you did.'”

After months of construction and a nearly completed project, it turns out the contractor she hired to finish her basement, Richard Resendez of 9Line Construction, is not a licensed general contractor and never pulled permits for the project, even though state records with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office show 9Line as a registered business in good standing.

“No permits, no inspections, no nothing," said Jim Cope, Caro-Preiss’ new general contractor for the project.

Cope is the owner of Jim Cope Construction LLC. His company is now having to demo much of the finished work because it's not up to code and won't pass inspection.

Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center

"Studs should be 16 inches on center. These are running 23 to 27 inches," Cope said. “The wiring is loose. It hasn't been stapled."

Perhaps the biggest code violation: No floating walls — a legal requirement for finished basements in Colorado.

"In Colorado, it's a big deal because you have bentonite in the soil,” Cope said. “Your basement floor could heave. If the floor heaves up, then the [floating] walls move up without pushing it all the way up and lifting the joist off the main floor."

Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center

A letter from the City of Brighton codes department confirms much of the work is not up to code, including walls that are not floating, fireblocking never installed and smoke detectors with no power running to them — in a space meant for children.

"He didn't even have the heart to think about the children," Caro-Preiss said.

Denver7 tried contacting 9Line Construction at least a half-dozen times through door knocks and phone calls, but did not receive an answer.

Adding insult to injury, of the $50,000 Caro-Preiss paid to 9Line, approximately $42,000 was state grant money paid directly to the unlicensed contractor by the State of Colorado.

“There was no oversight with them,” Cope said of the state and county. “They should have checked. This guy didn't even have a contractor's license. All he is is a drywall guy."

Denver7 reached out to the Colorado Department of Human Services, which oversees the emerging and expanding childcare grant program. The department said it’s working on getting answers, but likely won’t have any until after Labor Day because of schedules.

Isabella Maria Cares Family Childcare and Early Learning Center

Caro-Preiss must now come up with about $60,000 to fix the shoddy workmanship.

“I don't have the money for it," she said.

Both Caro-Preiss and her new contractor want this to be a cautionary tale.

“Now I know better to really ask for proof of license,” Caro-Preiss said. “Not just a business license, a contractor's license. And when they're doing work, ask for a permit."

“You need to physically see the permit," Cope added.

Denver7 Gives is collecting money to help Caro-Preiss' dream become a reality instead of a nightmare. To donate, visit the Denver7 Gives website and select "Help Isabella Marie Cares" from the dropdown menu.

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