WSVN — Problems. We all have them, and many of them we can’t seem to solve. But in South Florida, it’s become a catchphrase for a solution: call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser. Tens of thousands of you did in 2014, and what were the solutions? Let’s bring in Patrick and Howard with their top seven headaches you faced in the past year.

Howard Finkelstein: “Hello, everybody. I’m Howard Finkelstein.”

Patrick Fraser: “And I’m Patrick Fraser, the guy who gets to work with the hotshot lawyer all the time. Seriously, though, we do enjoy and are so lucky to begin our 17th year together helping people in South Florida solve their problems.”

Howard Finkelstein: “The incidence of some problems did drop off — the Internet, pet problems — but many remain, and some new ones appeared.”

Patrick Fraser: “The seventh most common complaint we heard involved your home sweet home, when it wasn’t your sweet home.”

Brenda Hadley: “It just makes us feel like nobody cares, we’re forgotten.”

Patrick Fraser: “Still, a lot of foreclosure eyesores. Diana and Donna’s house truly stunk after Pembroke Pines hired a company to work on the sewer lines and instead blew sewage into the homes. We also saw bad contractors, neighbors with biting dogs, barking dogs. The list goes on.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Following closely at number six, tenants and their landlords.”

Azahy Arencibia: “They have chewed up all my couches.”

Howard Finkelstein: “From an apartment with rats…”

Jennifer Trumble: “Joseph, you’re standing up here and telling a lie.”

To Jennifer, who took in a grandson but could not get him to leave.

Howard Finkelstein: “Then, the most common problem we heard from people: renters who can’t get their security deposit back when they move out.”

Patrick Fraser: “Howard., what can you do to increase the odds of getting your security deposit back?”

Howard Finkelstein: “Videotape any damage before you move in and videotape the condition when you leave, so you don’t get stuck paying for damage you didn’t cause.”

Patrick Fraser: “At number 5, a new category: people fighting for their rights, and by winning hopefully helping other people going through the same thing.”

Fatima Hughes: “I have always been a chubby girl.”

Patrick Fraser: “There was Fatima, who couldn’t get into a South Beach club because of her size, and John, who was fired from his job for reporting to duty with the Army.

Ana Rodriguez: “I don’t park, I don’t use their health facility.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Ana, who says the fees her university charged taking online courses were unfair and wanted them lowered for all students, and Randy, who said he was pulled over by police because of the color of his skin.”

Patrick Fraser: “At number 4, cars trucks and boats.”

Jafane Prinvil: “I just want my money back, and I want to move on.”

Patrick Fraser: “This year we saw a big increase in people who hired an auto broker and said they were ripped off. Something new: boat dealers who sold people like Chris’ boat and kept the money.”

Howard Finkelstein: “And as usual, a lot of complaints about some of South Florida’s used car dealers.”

Patrick Fraser: “Howard, how do you make sure you’re getting what you pay for when you buy a used car?”

Howard Finkelstein: “Request a Carfax from that day, take it to a mechanic you trust before you sign anything, and check around. Find a dealer with a good reputation.”

Patrick Fraser: “At number 3, welcome back again the good old government.”

Tim Quigley: “Somebody pulled up in a golf cart and told us that we couldn’t use this field.”

Patrick Fraser: “Little kids were told they had to have a permit to play at a park. Several people had to deal with a suddenly soaring water bill.”

Anthony Brown: “Double dipping. That’s what they were doing to you.”

Howard Finkelstein: “The state was taking double the child support Anthony was supposed to pay.”

Victoria Berquist: “And I found out there was a $3.3 million lien on the property.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Imagine how Victoria felt when she discovered the city had that $3.3 million lien on her late parents’ home.”

Patrick Fraser: “But give Pompano Beach credit, Howard. They reduced that lien to almost nothing after we got involved.”

Howard Finkelstein: “If the government is wrong, in most cases they have to correct. And even if it’s a close call, if you complain enough to supervisors, even your elected officials, the call can go your way.”

Patrick Fraser: “The second biggest complaint we heard involves condo and homeowner associations led by their management companies.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Associations that towed their owners’ cars, fined them for parking, or in Luisa’s case, for some reason no one can figure out, won’t even let her use her own parking space.”

Patrick Fraser: “Howard, of all the people we dealt with this year, some associations, and some management companies backed by their attorneys, almost became impossible to work with.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Part of it is power given to board members who in many cases have never had any power, and abuse it. Make sure you have a copy of the association’s documents, and their rules and regulations, so when you get in a fight, you will know if you are right and will win.”

Patrick Fraser: “And, the most common complaint from you, the most excruciating headache for South Floridians: battling businesses.”

Howard Finkelstein: “Whether it was a gym contract, GAP insurance that didn’t cover the gap, a car wash that removed the rooftop…”

Patrick Fraser: “An $8,500 cell phone bill, a wedding photographer who didn’t deliver the album but did use the bride’s pictures in his ads.”

Lena Saavedra: “We already paid them all their money. We don’t owe them anything.”

Patrick Fraser: “And then there was Genie Pools. We heard from 40 different customers that claimed Genie ripped them off. After our story aired, the Florida Attorney General sued the company for deceiving its customers.”

Howard Finkelstein: “I know it’s common sense, but don’t rush. Check out the business before you sign anything, do some research, and remember, if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Patrick Fraser: “We’ve helped with many other kinds of problems this year. To see what your legal options are in those particular cases, go to under Help Me Howard and find the story with the same problem you’re dealing with.”

Howard Finkelstein: “And if you don’t find it there, we are here. We truly enjoy helping you with your problems.”

Patrick Fraser: “So please, for the 17th year, get in touch with us. With Mr. Finkelstein, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.”

E-mail: (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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