A South Florida woman paid a deposit for an auto broker to find a car. When he couldn’t, she went to a dealer but the broker won’t return her cash. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Sherlene was two sons. One is 19. One is 5 — a big age gap and a big difference in her reaction after each was born.

Sherlene Orelus: “I took off a year when the little one was born just so I could be with him for that year. I didn’t do that with the older one so I kind of regretted it.”

Jevon and AJ are doing great. Her 2002 car was not and when it broke down, rather than repair it, a friend recommended she contact an auto broker to get another car.

Sherlene Orelus: “‘Cause it’s cheaper and it’s quicker. So I said maybe I should do that.”

Sherlene then told the broker she wanted a newer car, at least a 2010.

Sherlene Orelus: “I asked him for a Toyota. That’s what I wanted from the start. I have always had Toyota. I have never had any other car. I wanted to stick with Toyota ’cause I like them.”

The broker wanted a $1,200 deposit. Sherlene gave him $500 cash and he gave her another $700 for her 2002 car. That was the middle of August. The broker started looking.

Sherlene Orelus: “He was telling me every car that I picked I wasn’t getting approved.”

Sherlene’s credit wasn’t great and getting around while she waited for the broker to find a car was no day at the beach, either.

Sherlene Orelus: “Mind you, I am using public transportation. I am burdening other people, my sister, my friends to get rides here and there.”

After looking for nearly a month, on Sept. 13 the broker sent Sherlene a text telling her he found this car. He added: “Do you want it? Yes or no.”

Sherlene texted back: “I would. How long do you think it will be?”

The broker replied: “TMW.” Tomorrow.

Sherlene wrote: “Okay.”

But it was not ready on the 14th or 15th or 16th. Sherlene had enough.

Sherlene Orelus: “I was like I didn’t think it mattered if i went and got another car. It was taking so long.”

On the 17th, Sherlene went to a nearby Toyota dealer.

Sherlene Orelus: “Test drove a couple of cars, made a decision, back and forth for a little bit and bam! I had my car.”

A couple of days later Sherlene let the broker know she had her car.

Sherlene Orelus: “He was like ‘Great, I hope it works out for you and good luck’. I was like ‘Thanks.'”

She then asked for her $1,200 deposit back. He said no.

Sherlene Orelus: “”I asked you if you wanted the car. You said you wanted the car. By not getting the car, you forfeit everything.'”

Sherlene was surprised. The broker said, he was keeping the money for the work he did trying to find her a car.

Sherlene Orelus: “There was nothing clear saying if you don’t go with my services you forfeit everything. Then I would say I am not going to deal with you. ’cause I’m not comfortable with that situation.”

Well Howard, Sherlene gave the broker a deposit to find a car, approved a car, but when he didn’t arrive the next day, she bought another car. You have read the texts. Does Sherlene get her deposit back?

Howard Finkelstein: “Legally, this is a very close call. They had an oral agreement, which is binding. But what is not clear is how vital the delivery of the car the following day was. If it was an important matter, since it wasn’t delivered, it’s a breach of the contract by the broker and Sherlene gets her deposit back. However, if the next-day delivery was not major, the verbal contract is valid and Sherlene loses her deposit Bottom line: it’s too close to call.”

I spoke to the auto broker, Jay Gustin from J & E Car Sales. He didn’t want to be interviewed on camera, but said when Sherlene asked “how long do you think it will be?” He replied “tomorrow” and he meant she would be approved for the loan to buy the car tomorrow — that the car was delivered four days later and he lost money on the deal. Combine that with the service he provided looking for the car and he didn’t believe he had to return Sherlene’s $1200 deposit.

Howard Finkelstein: “Sherlene could take the broker to small claims court and who knows who will win. The lesson here for everybody, even though an oral contract is binding, get something in writing because it removes all doubt as to what both parties agreed to. That takes out the he-said, she-said.”

Sherlene Orelus: “It’s not right.”

Sherlene may take the broker to small claims court because she is convinced he’s not right and she is.

Sherlene Orelus: “Yes, I asked for your services. Services did not go right. I needed a car. You said I would get the car by tomorrow. I didn’t, so I should have gotten my money back.”

The broker says he was also keeping the deposit because he did work getting the car. In many cases, if someone provides a service, like giving you an estimate for a new car, if you decide not to buy it you don’t owe them anything for their work. This one was a close call because of the disagreement over the oral agreement.

Agree your problem is driving you batty? Ready to put things on auto? Deposit it with us. We aren’t a broker, but you won’t go broke with us. We are free.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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