Saturday, September 26, 2020

House of Horrors- Part III Taking the Bull By What Hurts

By Carol Glassman

Even a patient person eventually loses it. The renovations to my flood-damaged home had come to a standstill. All the smiles and pats on the head with no results other than a newly-tiled floor under a leaky roof were no longer reassuring or even made any sense. Time for a showdown at the not-so OK Corral, wouldn’t you say?

Tony, self-proclaimed contractor actually came to the house to tell me when the roof work would begin, assuring me all the permits were in place. I knew this was untrue.

“How can this be?” I asked. “Although you said you don’t need a letter of commencement, I believe you do.”

At this he waved one in my face and said, “Here it is, sign it.”

“So the roofer doesn’t have a permit yet,” I said.

“Oh, he can get it in 24 to 48 hours,” he replied.

“I think that’s a demo permit,” I replied. “Doesn’t a building/roof permit take longer? He obviously doesn’t have it.”

No answer.

He asked me to check my email for a fancy “updated and approved schedule” that he had just sent, after my requesting it since August. He followed me into my office and as I opened the email, he began to rifle through private papers on my desk. I am not a violent person, but I came as close as I ever want to be to slapping him. What I said should not be put in print. It rolled off Tony-the-duck’s back.

He then told me I owed him another $1,500 for the floor, for which I had not only paid him in full, but by my reckoning, had overpaid. I, on the other hand, was waiting for a refund, and for payment from the insurance company after he informed them that part of the job was complete.

Remember those two $500/day air scrubbers? Tony told me they would have cost $60,000 by then. Well, I found out they cost between $30 and $70/day with a 10-day limit on them by insurance companies who feel mold problems should be addressed and resolved quickly.

After he left I began to study the schedule: what a crock! For example, he allowed from October 16 to October 28 to paint the house and it was already October 22. I knew what I was about to do, so I phoned him while he was still in his car, planning to ask leading questions.

I had been promised continually (along with a wealth of other things) every room in the house would be repainted as there were nicks out of the baseboards and door frames when the doors had to be removed and shortened (pocket doors), and gouges and black hand marks on the trim and every wall. He suddenly backtracked and said he had no intention of painting every room, as the insurance had not allowed enough money. When I asked why he had misled me for months, he said he found some paint cans in my garage and his painter would use that to touch up everything and I would “love it.” When I finished exploding about his snooping in my garage without my permission, I informed him that was the cheapest flat matte paint we had used 10 years ago to paint storage areas, it was not for living room walls, and I would not “love it.” Tony went deaf when corrected. He didn’t hear a word.

I mentioned the $1,500 he said I owed him – and in fact, went over just how much money I had given him.

“The truth is,” I said, “right now I have overpaid you more than $24,000 according to my canceled checks and your contracts, and that includes the deposit for the roof.”

Well, he wasn’t too sure about that but I told him it’s hard to argue with a cancelled check and a contract and he could use part of that money to pay for the remainder of the roof. I did not intend to write another check until I had the CO for the roof in my hand.

Then I suggested I thought I would call the insurance adjuster to find out why they hadn’t sent me a check for the floor. As I expected, Tony promised to come the next day and we could “Call him together to make sure we are all on the same page.”

Right: the same page. We don’t even read the same book!

I listened to him promise for sure he would be here at 10 a.m. on Friday, October 23. As soon as I hung up I called the insurance adjuster and filled him in on all the details. It was October 22 and for three months my life had been a horror. The adjuster sounded distraught on my behalf and said although there was not much he could do legally, he would come and meet Tony at the house the following week with his supervisor to see if they could do something, like apply pressure. Tony had never contacted them at all and by this time it was unclear if what I had paid out for the floor would be covered by insurance.

This was a start.

Did you expect Tony to show up or call on Friday so that we could call the insurance company together? Neither did I.

I spent the weekend researching and asking friends for referrals for tough, experienced attorneys. I also searched online at the State of Florida’s website to look up Tony’s contractor’s license. A person can fill out a complaint about a contractor, but it could take several months for it to be handled. I knew Tony worked for a family business and I found out that he was working under his uncle Steve’s license. That would make the uncle ultimately responsible for everything. I had heard the men talking about what a nice man the uncle was so after a little fancy footwork on Google and a little help from my friends, I found his phone number.

Early Monday morning, October 26 I called Uncle Steve. As calmly and politely as I could, I introduced myself and gave him a thumbnail sketch about what I had gone through and the current condition of my house. He said he had never heard of me or my house, so he would read my file that night and come to my house with his project manager Diana, the next day. I made it very clear that there were two options at that time: either clean up the mess properly and in a timely manner, or I would call my attorney and proceed with legal action. I had simply had enough. Incidentally, I had received an invoice in the mail from the original roofer, Teddy, for work authorized by Tony (not me) to put the first tarp on the roof. With it came a letter explaining that they had put aside other clients to do my ‘emergency’ roof on Sept. 17th, but could not proceed as they had never heard from Tony. He ignored their phone calls, faxes, texts and e-mails. They were kind enough to enclose a copy of the estimate, which showed me that Tony had quoted me a price that included a $12,000 ‘treat’ for himself in addition to the cost of the roof. Now I am not that naive that I expect a contractor to work for nothing — but $12,000? If there weren’t already a hole in the ceiling, one would have been created as I blew my stack and my head went through it. Finding out that Tony had called the roofer for help, that he hadn’t “just been in the neighborhood” was the second surprise.

Uncle Steve made several calls in front of me. The first was to the insurance agent to whom he introduced himself. He explained he had taken over the job himself and they arranged to meet at the house on Friday, October 30.

I did not spend a lot of time vilifying nephew Tony. I know blood is thicker than water and I also sensed my job couldn’t be the only one Tony had messed up; he’s in his mid 40s, I would guess, and prides himself on being a pastor of a church. Has he never heard of simple honesty?

I did refer to the fantasy schedule several times and bet Steve that the workmen and companies outlined there had no idea they were coming to work here on those dates and most likely had never heard of this job. A few more phone calls proved sadly, I was correct.

Steve, his project manager Diana, the insurance agent and I met as planned. The most important thing I learned was that everything under the roof was not covered as Tony had said, nor was payment automatic. There was quite a difference between how Tony in his Tommy Bahama shirts and shorts and flip-flops and his professional uncle approached things.

It seemed we would be returning to that famous square one again, and beginning the work anew. Hard to believe the conditions in which I had been living for over three months were going to continue. I knew it would not be corrected overnight.

Tune in for Part IV, the next exciting chapter in the tale of the House of Horrors, which began just in time for Halloween.

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