Locksmith’s $100 car service leads to $3,300 repair bill

(WSVN) - You call a repairman to fix a problem. They show up and break something else, but if they deny it, do they have to pay for that repair bill? It’s why one South Florida man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

You can make a lot of money selling real estate. Of course, that requires you to work a lot of hours.

Will Wilson, repairman broke car: “You’re showing five to seven houses, even on the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are super busy.”

One necessity, Will said, is you have to have a good, reliable car.

Will Wilson: “I needed to go to showings every day. Your car is like your home office.”

Recently, Will had a unusual problem with his vehicle. He lost his key fob somewhere in his car.

Will Wilson: “However, the car still started, so it was fine.”

But while the car would crank, Will couldn’t lock it, so he called a Broward County locksmith who came to his house.

Will Wilson: “‘We’ll do it for $100, because it’s an easy job.’ Seemed like on the up and up, and he knew what he was doing.”

Hours later, it was clear he didn’t know what he was doing.

Will Wilson: “He couldn’t get the car started, and it went into a shutdown mode, and now I can’t drive it or do anything with it.”

The locksmith said, “Oh, well.”

Will Wilson: “‘I did my best. I was there for five hours. I didn’t make any money,’ and that’s kind of where he left it off.”

Will had his car towed to the Lexus dealer, where they did know what they were doing.

Will Wilson: “Whoever worked on your car locked you out of it, locked us out of it and also damaged the steering column, so all this is going to have to be replaced. He tells me it’s going to be about $3,300, and at that point my heart just sunk.”

Will called the company who sent the locksmith, whose $100 bill to replace a key fob turned into a $3,300 car repair bill. It’s South Florida, so you can guess how they responded.

Will Wilson: “They just turned a blind eye, totally ignored me. Totally unprofessional, and threw their hands up and said pretty much ‘screw you.'”

Meaning, Will was stuck with an enormous bill to fix a car a locksmith broke.

Will Wilson: “I’m freaking out ’cause I don’t have the money.”

Well, Howard. What’s the key to this one?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Sometimes the law is really simple. If the car would crank when the locksmith got there, and wouldn’t crank after he worked on it, he broke it, and legally, he has to pay for the damage he created. And that goes for any repairman who works on your house or car. They are responsible for what they break.”

According to the state, the locksmith has only been in business for four months. When we talked to him, he admitted Will’s car was running when he got there, but he said he didn’t damage anything. His computer said there was a problem with the car. He said he wasn’t paying for anything, tell Will to sue him. And then he hung up on us.

Howard Finkelstein: “Except for Miami-Dade, locksmiths aren’t regulated in Florida. Meaning, they aren’t licensed and don’t have to have insurance, leaving Will with one option: sue the guy in small claims court.”

Will paid the $3,300 to get a new key fob and his car repaired. It was a costly lesson.

Will Wilson: “I recommend everyone go to the dealership. Don’t try to take a quick shortcut that’ll save you $150.”

And I know you are gonna ask, why couldn’t Will find the key fob in his car? He tried. The locksmith tried. And even after going to the dealer, it still hasn’t been found. Just one of those things.

Stalled as you face a problem? Locked out of a solution? Maybe the key is contacting us to crank up things and let you drive away happy.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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