Several homeowners in Panorama are frustrated that they didn’t check out their fencing contractor a little more closely before handing over their hard earned cash.

Planks of wood have been sitting in the backyards of Farhad Werdeg and Atif Abbasi since last September.

"I think they're useless now, sitting out there all winter, but they're still there," said Abbasi.

In both cases, Steve Nielsen, the contractor and owner of Heart of the West Construction, dropped the lumber off and promised to return the next day to build their fences.

He never did and the homeowners have tried several times to contact him.

“We tried to contact him maybe 100 times, he never replied,” said Werdeg.

It's the same story down at Eva Strazhevski’s house.

All three neighbors thought they were safe hiring Nielsen to do their jobs.

"He was doing all the fences on our street and the street in front of us. All our neighbors were using him, neighbors on the back, the left, the right,” said Werdeg.

The Werdeg and Abassi families paid Nielsen in full, $1200 and $1500 dollars respectively. 

Stravhevski says she put 60 percent down which was more than $1500.

“He said I have lots of people asking me to build their fences, if you want I take you seriously, please put 60% deposit down so you'll be in line," said Stravhevski.

The homeowners contacted CTV Calgary’s Consumer Specialist Lea Williams-Doherty to see if she could help out.

Lea called Service Alberta to find out if Nielsen or Heart of the West has a prepaid contractor’s licence which all contractors must have if they want to take deposits outside their place of business.

It turns out that Nielsen doesn't have that licence, which means not only is he in breach of contract, he is also in breach of Alberta's Fair Trading Act.

"If they do not provide a refund they can be charged and the courts can order restitution to the consumer and that's how they can get their money back, if there is money to be obtained,” said Mike Berezowsky from Service Alberta.

The neighbors had only a phone number for Nielsen so Lea called and left him messages telling him what he's done is illegal and asking for their money back.

Lea never spoke to Nielsen but did get a voicemail response.

"Any money refunded to the customers, that's on our terms and our terms only, basically they'll be refunded the money, I ran into financial problems,” said Neilsen.

Lea says if Neilsen fails to refund the money, consumers can file a complaint with Service Alberta and the province should lay charges under the Fair Trading Act for taking deposits without a licence.

Lea has some advice for consumers on how to check if a contractor has a licence to take deposits.

She says people should call Service Alberta or run a search on its website.

If you find the contractor is not licenced and you've already given them a deposit, you automatically have the right to cancel the contract and get your money back.

If the contractor is licenced, then he or she must give the province a $10,000 bond that consumers can claim against if something goes wrong like it did here.

That's part of the extra protection licensing gives consumers.

(With files from Lea Williams-Doherty)