Wednesday, August 2, 2006
Help Me Howard: Repair
Everyone has to rely on the expertise of the repairmen they hire. But what happens when one intentionally breaks your appliance and tried to trick you into spending more money? Howard has the answers. Here's Seven's Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--As a school teacher, summer is the time for john to get the little things done around his house.
John Murphy: "I called the AC guys because I wanted to get my air ducts cleaned."
He found a company in the phone book. They came out and did the job.
John Murphy: "While they were in there working on that, cleaning that up. I was over at my desk doing some paperwork, so I wasn't paying attention to what they were doing."
And after they were finished John says he discovered they did more than just clean the air ducts.
John Murphy: "They were getting ready to leave. So I said well I can turn the AC on now? Ok, when I turned it on it didn't work."
The workers said they had no idea why his air conditioner had suddenly stopped working. So they called the company's owner.
John Murphy: "So when the owner came, the owner looked at it and said I needed a new motor, and he also said I needed something up outside in the outside unit that was welded shut."
John is no AC whiz, but he started getting suspicious.
John Murphy: "How can you say there's something wrong with the outside motor, when you haven't even looked at it yet."
The owner told John he would fix it for $700.
When John said no thanks. He says the owner became irritated.
John Murphy: "He goes, what do you do for a living and he's seen that I was a school teacher. And he goes, oh you think you're smarter than me."
John didn't answer and asked them to leave. Then he called an AC repairman that he trusted.
John Murphy: "My regular air conditioner guy came out and looked at it and within two minutes he showed me the two green wires."
The repairman told him someone had been messing with the wires on his so called broken motor.
John Murphy: "The cap was taken off of them and they were disconnected. And that's what ran the motor. They were trying to hide the wires so I wouldn't see them."
And of course John suspects if he had not paid them $700 instead of installing a new motor they would have re-connected the wires and gone on their merry way. Fortunately John didn't pay.
"Right away you start to think you know ... there's something up. There's something happening."
But what can you do if a repairman intentionally breaks something while fixing something else.
Howard Finkelstein: "If the workers intentionally disconnected the wires, with the intent to get money they weren't entitled to .. whether its car mechanics...home repairmen...no matter who..it theft and you can go to jail for it."
Help Me Howard contacted the company. The owner told us he has been in business for decades and never had a complaint like this.
That his guys never touched the mechanical workings of the AC unit. Just dusted the outside.
And that John told his guys the AC hadn't worked for a month.
John did try to report the incident to police, but they told him it a was a civil matter.
So Howard if its potentially a crime as you said. Why won't police investigate.
Howard Finkelstein: "Police have discretion when to investigate or not. Unfortunately these types of cases are difficult to prove in court, unless you catch them in the act on video tape, typically a police agency or the State Attorney's office will refuse to take on the case."
In the meantime John says he considers himself lucky for realizing what was going on.
John Murphy: "You don't know how many people he's done this to before. It could happen to anybody."
Patrick Fraser: "John is also going to file a claim against the contractors license with the State of Florida. Which can be done at this website.
You can file complaints on this site against plumbers, roofers or other contractors. If you have a problem with a mechanic, mover or dance studio, you file complaints here.
The state takes complaints against them very seriously John is also going to file a claim against the contractors license with the State of Florida.
Which can be done at this website.
Keep in mind, whether it's a plumber, a roofer or an air conditioning repair man, all are licensed by the state. And the state takes complaints against them very seriously.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
My Florida License
Division of Consumer Services