Crafty Raccoon

(WSVN) - The culprit is cute. The problem is not. A South Florida man hired a company to catch a pesky raccoon. Then the company charged him over 10 times what they promised. Rather than take the bait, he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Whoever thinks animals are dumb has never tried to outsmart a raccoon.

Reginald Sukhoo: “I put food in there, and the food is gone and the trap remains the same!”

Reginald found out just how shrewd a raccoon can be after one decided to move into his attic.

Reginald Sukhoo: “I was sitting down in this patio here and I heard a noise in the roof. I go outside, and I look and saw the raccoon going into the screen vent, into the attic.”

Reginald then called an animal removal service to come to his house.

Reginald Sukhoo: “They will bait the trap to catch the raccoon. When they catch the raccoon they will dispose of it.”

Reginald said they told him they would charge him $225. He signed a receipt for the trap, and he says he got a guarantee.

Reginald Sukhoo: “If you don’t catch the raccoon, I don’t pay anything.”

They left the trap with bait inside, and…

Reginald Sukhoo: “The next morning when I wake up, the bait was gone and the trap remains the same.”

The trapping people didn’t come back, so every day Reginald would put bread and chicken in here. And every night that 25-pound raccoon would take his snack and walk away.

Reginald Sukhoo: “I think the raccoon is very smart.”

Reginald then paid a handyman $25 to replace the screen the raccoon had torn open and went through.

But then he came home one day to find the animal removal company had put these small pieces of screen on three pipes on his house — that the 25-pound raccoon couldn’t have fit into anyway.

Reginald Sukhoo: “So I don’t see the reason for them to cover the pipe there. There was no reason for it. There was no arrangement. There was no agreement. There was no price.”

Then he got a bill from the animal removal company for $2,424.

Reginald Sukhoo: “Why would I want to pay $2,424 to remove a raccoon?”

It cost $1,300 for these three small screens, $635 for a settlement draft, which Reginald has no idea what that means, and $489 to remove the raccoon, even though they told him it would be $225. And the raccoon is still running around anyway.

Reginald Sukhoo: “They haven’t caught the raccoon, so I don’t think I should pay for the raccoon. And the other work, I did not authorize them, and they should not charge me for that.”

Well, Howard, you might not be as smart as that raccoon, but legally, does Reginald have to pay this $2,424 bill?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News legal expert: “Absolutely not. They had a verbal contract to catch the raccoon for a fee of $225. They guaranteed to catch it and did not, so Reginald doesn’t owe that. And since he didn’t authorize the other work, he does not owe the money for that, either.”

I contacted Allstar Animal Removal, based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The manager told me there was an error in the billing, that the invoice was wiped clean, Reginald now owes them nothing and has a zero balance…

Howard Finkelstein: “Verbal agreements are as legal as written agreements, but if you are going to get work done, get all the expenses in writing, because then there is no disagreement over the price.”

Reginald Sukhoo: “I am so happy I spoke to you guys, and I am so relieved, very, very relieved I called Channel 7.”

Reginald is happy he met with us and glad the raccoon has moved somewhere else, because he sure doesn’t miss him.

Reginald Sukhoo: “No, I don’t, because he caused me a lot of grief, really. I don’t want to see him anymore.”

Got rid of the bill, and the raccoon moved on. Couldn’t have worked out any better for Reginald.

Now, Howard mentioned getting an estimate in writing before any work is done, but be careful there aren’t clauses that let them raise the price for things you may not expect. In other words, keep the paperwork nice and simple.

Feel trapped by a problem you want to escape from? We will be happy to take the bait. We aren’t as crafty as that raccoon, but he can’t read a law book. So we at least have that going for us.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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