Help Me Howard’s 7 Top 7 Problems of 2016

Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser helped a lot of people with their problems in 2016. And odds are, you’ll face many of the same issues in 2017. Patrick and Howard have the solutions for those headaches in tonight’s 7’s Top 7.

Hello, everybody, I’m Patrick Fraser.

Howard Finkelstein: “And I’m Howard Finkelstein.”

Patrick Fraser: “More appropriately, it would be better to just call us two lucky fellows. Lucky to be able to do Help Me Howard, lucky to be able to help so many South Floridians with problems they just can’t resolve.”

Howard Finkelstein: “And, of course, those headaches are going to hit you again this year, just like they did last year. So let’s look at some solutions from 2016 that you can use in 2017.”

Our seventh most common problem was one that had never been in our top seven: medical issues. From a clinic that could not get an insurance company to pay $60,000 they were owed, to a woman who was kicked out of a store for trying to give herself a badly needed insulin shot, Howard, medical concerns are a complicated problem for so many people.

Howard Finkelstein: “When it comes to medical issues, the hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and businesses are tightly regulated, meaning you, the patient, have many guaranteed rights. The key? Know those rights and exercise them.”

At number six: utilities. From a $26,000 cellphone bill for one month, to a fellow who had all his phone numbers deleted by a phone store, to an apartment complex fined by the city for wires put there by the cable companies, Howard’s got a suggestion.

Howard Finkelstein: “First, contact Florida’s Public Service Commission. If they can’t help, they will tell you which agency to call. It’s that simple.”

At number five, home sweet — oh wait, if you call us, it’s not sweet home. From the sprinkler that went off in an apartment for no reason, to renters, to bad landlords, to problems homeowners face, Howard, is there a key to resolving those issues?

Howard Finkelstein: “Here, the key is your paperwork. Your lease, your purchase contract and whether you rent or own a home, your insurance, make sure you read and know what it covers.”

At number four, something we all hate to deal with: money problems.

From the mother who loaned money to her son’s high school booster club, to all kinds of credit card issues, Howard’s got an answer for those problems.

Howard Finkelstein: “If you are going to lend money, even if it’s a friend, put it in writing. As for credit card issues, check your statement each month to make sure there are no hidden charges or purchases you didn’t make.”

At number three, what used to be number one: the people you pay taxes to — the good old government, who fined a woman without warning her for a pile of shrubs she had cut, to the many people who complain to us because their city won’t go after abandoned homes, and many other problems coming from code enforcement, police, water and sewer. On and on.

Howard Finkelstein: “People say you can’t fight city hall, but you can. Go up the bureaucratic chain, be polite but be persistent, and don’t forget the elected officials. You put them in office; if they won’t listen, you can take them out of office.”

At number two: your battles with businesses. From a smoking hoverboard, to a bad purse repair, to a contractor who took money but didn’t do the work, an accountant who couldn’t count, a mess with a mover and, as always, bad used-car dealers. Howard?

Howard Finkelstein: “Most businesses are good, and when the good ones make a mistake, they fix it. It’s the bad ones you have to avoid. Buy from people you know or your friends know. And remember, you can go online and check their reviews before you give them your money.”

And the most common complaint we heard, driven in part by some property managers who were out of control: problems with condo and homeowner associations. From the association that banned a statue of the patron saint of Cuba from a yard, to the property manager who refused to allow the treasurer to see the financial records, to the association president who fined a resident for insulting him, Howard, for some reason, complaints about associations and their managers soared this year.

Howard Finkelstein: “The key: go to the association meetings. Get involved. Read the association documents. Demand to see their financial records, because everything the association does, the property owners have a right to see and copy.”

We mentioned many of the stories we encountered in the past year. What we didn’t say is that we were able to straighten out many of them, and able to help you get rid of the headaches that Howard talked about.

It’s truly wonderful to be able to help you. I mentioned agencies you contact. If you have a problem, go to our website, under Help Me Howard, to see if we have done a story like yours, and the legal solution I offered.

And if you have a problem you can’t resolve, get in touch with us.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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