(WSVN) - Talk about a hot mess. Her kitchen caught on fire. Her mortgage company got the check to pay for the repairs and deposited it, but then claimed they couldn’t find it, meaning she couldn’t pay the contractor. With all of those problems, she then turned to the people in South Florida who solve problems: Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you walk into Haiba’s home, you don’t have to ask about her family. Her collage on her wall tells it all.

Haiba Jabali: “I have great-grandchildren now. I have two great-grand- they’re babies. I even have a picture of my great-grandmother.”

Talking about the wall puts a sparkle in Haiba’s eye … but a few months ago, a spark nearly took her whole house down.

Haiba Jabali: “It was a pretty big fire.”

Haiba was frying conch. She opened the door to take her dog outside.

While she was there, a friend called.

Haiba Jabali: “And that quick, I forgot about the pan being on the stove.”

By the time she walked back in, it was almost too late.

Haiba Jabali: “Just smoke, black smoke. I had never seen a fire, first of all, close up, let alone in my kitchen.”

After dialing 911, Haiba started trying to put the fire out.

Haiba Jabali: “I just dashed the water, you know, the spigot from the sink, and I just sprayed it, sprayed it, sprayed it. I even threw a pot of water. It was a scary thing.”

Haiba got the fire out, but her kitchen was destroyed.

Haiba Jabali: “Completely. It was gutted. I had no ceiling.”

Her insurance company agreed to pay $92,000.

A good contractor did a great job.

Haiba Jabali: “it’s just beautiful. Everybody loves the new kitchen, right?”

The final check from the insurance company was $13,000-plus. Her lender’s servicing company had to endorse it and then send the money to Haiba.

Haiba Jabali: “So they got it and kept it. Never sent me the $13,000. It’s been almost two months now.”

Haiba says she sent them the check, showing they endorsed it and deposited it into their account.

Their reply?

Haiba Jabali: “They’re saying they don’t know where the check is.”

Meaning the contractor who built a kitchen Haiba loves can’t get the $13,000 they are owed.

Haiba Jabali: “They could put a lien on your house, and I don’t want that to happen.”

Well, Haiba is worried she is about to get a lien on her property because the lender won’t give her the $13,000. What can she do?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In a nutshell, a financial institution — or anyone, for that matter — cannot keep someone’s money with the excuse, ‘We cannot find it.’ The law calls this civil theft, and here is what you do: send them a certified letter demanding they return your money within 30 days. If they do not, a judge will order them to pay three times the amount you are owed plus your attorney’s fees.”

We contacted the mortgage company. They quickly responded and said they’d check into it.

But two weeks later, they still hadn’t returned the money.

We then helped Haiba draw up the demand letter giving them 30 days to give her the $13,000.

Coincidentally, that day, the money was wired to her.

Haiba Jabali: “Yes! Thank you, Help Me Howard. I couldn’t believe it.”

Haiba got her money and can now pay the contractors, then enjoy her brand-new kitchen.

Haiba Jabali: “It wouldn’t have been possible without Help Me Howard. I am so grateful to Help Me Howard, because I had been trying for months and months to get my money.”

That’s why we are here, ’cause helping you makes us happy. Howard talked about a demand letter. It doesn’t apply in most breach-of-contract cases, but if it’s your money, the demand letter should work.

We have an example of one if you want to read it at the end of this Help Me Howard story.

A problem left you ablaze? Feel like people are pouring fuel on the fire? Don’t let your hopes go up in smoke. Let us extinguish the problem.

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

CIVIL THEFT DEMAND LETTER:

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