Contractor Won’t Return Money

(WSVN) - She hired a contractor to redo her kitchen. She paid him most of the money, but he never did the work. She refused to give up and got her money back. How? Lets bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

There are a lot of reasons people want to buy their first home. Annette’s was more bedrooms.

Annette Morales, contractor has her money: “I’ve always lived in an apartment with five of us! And all three girls in one room. When we bought this house, it was a dream come true.”

That was 15 years ago, and during that time, Annette has had another goal … redo her kitchen.

Annette Morales: “I was going to get everything remodeled. Everything was gonna be taken out, and then move the sink over here.”

She saved her money, decided on a look and then started checking out contractors…

Annette Morales: “It’s hard for me to trust. I see a lot on TV that they take advantage of women, especially when they are alone.”

A friend recommended a man. Annette met him and hired him.

Annette Morales: “The whole project was going to be $2,100 and I gave him $1,800 down and he was supposed to start on a Saturday. I couldn’t wait for Saturday to come.”

Saturday came … he didn’t.

Annette Morales: “He couldn’t come because the next day was going to be rainy. No, it didn’t rain.”

That was back in January. Annette says the contractor told her he would be there the next Saturday…

He didn’t show up again.

After more excuses, Annette gave up and in texts started asking again and again for her $1,800 back.

Annette Morales: “‘Oh, I’m going to give you your money, I’m going to give you your money.’ Everything is in text going back and forth.”

The contractor then said he would return her money by that Friday. He did not … and then.

Annette Morales: “He told me to stop calling him.”

Annette thought her money was gone, and her hopes for a better kitchen … destroyed.

Annette Morales: “I was depressed. I was so stressed out. I started to cry.”

Howard, if we had a nickel for every call we have gotten lately about people not happy with their contractors and repairmen, we could pay for Annette’s kitchen. So what can she do?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “If you can’t convince the person to do the work or return the money, the best thing is take them to small claims court. Small claims court is user-friendly and for cases of $5,000 or less. You don’t need a lawyer. You just tell the judge what happened, show your paperwork and the judge will hopefully order the person you are suing to pay you what you are owed.”

Three months later, Annette again got to face the contractor, Michael Guerra, in small claims court.

Annette Morales (in court): “I’m suing because he never did the work.”

Guerra then faced the judge to tell why he didn’t do the work and kept Annette’s money.

Michael Guerra (in court): “My father died on the 7th and after that I couldn’t go that weekend. I told her. She told me she didn’t want the job done. And I want to settle and get this over with, your honor. I don’t need this headache right now.”

Guerra then handed Annette the $1,800, plus the money she spent to sue him — a total of $2,100.

Annette Morales: “I won the case, so I’m happy.”

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s very important when you hire contractors to pay as you go. Don’t give a big deposit. Write a commencement date of the job, a description of what work will be done then, and what portion of the payment that they will get at that time. That way if they walk away, you will have enough money to finish the job.”

Not only did Annette get her money back, her excitement about her kitchen has also returned.

Annette Morales: “He paid me and now I can do my kitchen finally!”

The main reason Annette won was she never gave up. And I don’t know why we are getting so many calls about people having problems with contractors. The key as Howard mentioned — if they walk away, have more of your money in your pocket instead of their pocket.

Got a small claim that needs some remodeling? Want us to construct a solution? Contact us. You don’t have to pay as you go with us … we’re free.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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