Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Help Me Howard: Contractor sets fire to trailer
If you own a home, you know that means getting repairs done over the years and most likely you've faced some questionable work. But one woman's plan to strengthen her home went up in smoke. So she called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Patty Braica: "It's so humid in here."
No air, no lights, no running water, no way to live.
Patty Braica: "I'm homeless, I can only laugh because if I think about it I'm in like survival mode."
You see this type of situation after a hurricane and ironically, Patty had hired a company to prepare her trailer for storm season that's when the trouble began.
Patty Braica: "And the owner came out with I think two or three workers and they worked on the house most of the day."
Patty was inside when she heard a strange sound.
Patty Braica: "And it just went shhh real fast, right through the whole mobile home. All the way from front to back, from side to side."
It didn't take long to realize her trailer was on fire.
Patty Braica: "I saw the flames coming out of my air conditioning unit, so I jumped up and ran out."
The blaze had apparently been started by a worker who ignited her insulation.
Patty Braica: "That was a shock, I thought they knew what they were doing."
Once the blaze was out Patty sifted through the damage caused by the fire and the water.
Patty Braica: "The floors, I think the water warped them my chairs, my couches, my television set and all my collectibles are all ruined."
From the outside her home looks fine but the combination of fire and water ruined her electronics left everything smelling like smoke. And filled with soot Patty couldn't sleep inside and had to move outside.
Patty Braica: "So this has been my home away from home for about a month, I slept on my trampoline."
Patty's insurance will give her the $36,000 to repair the structure but her policy does not cover all her contents. So she talked to the contractor's insurance company.
Patty Braica: "Even though the man that owned the company had insurance, the person that started the fire did not."
Patty was stunned by that excuse so she called the owner of the company to get him to straighten it out.
Patty Braica: "And he told me no, there is no way he can help me out, that he's broke, he has no money."
He says he is broke and just walks away leaving Patty to stay here to try and put into words what he has done to her.
Patty Braica: "Angry is not the word so pissed, I just can't even see straight. All by myself, I'm standing here all alone. No help whatsoever. I thought there were laws in Florida to protect me from that."
But can a contractor set your home on fire and then just walk away, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "We all have repairmen in our homes but most don't set them on fire and no matter what damage they cause they are responsible. However, as Patty discovered getting them to pay is more difficult than getting them to show up for an appointment."
We tried several times to contact the owner of the repair company he would not return our calls.
The attorney for his insurance company would not give us a copy of the contractor's insurance policy but told us it didn't cover this fire.
Howard says Patty should sue the contractor and when that happens his insurance company may be forced to reevaluate their position and pay the damages, if not then the contractor is responsible. Finally, Howard has some advice for anyone doing repairs.
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all make sure you have good insurance. Secondly, find a company that your friends have used that has been around for a long time. Finally, do a little research on them before you sign anything check with the better business bureau he clerks office the Internet anything you can think of."
Patty now has to wait for her insurance company to repair her trailer knowing it will be a long, long wait before she can get her contents replaced but at least now she has a place to stay.
Patty Braica: "Since the rains I've been staying with my ex-husband and his wife and his kids. They have a patio and an exercise room that I can stay in so that's where I've been staying."
Patrick Fraser: Everyone who hears she is staying with her ex says Ow, guess you have to be divorced to understand that situation. Now Patty's problem is a very unusual one, if a repairman breaks something they have to fix it. Like stores say you break it you bought it.
A situation got smoke coming out of your ears. Don't get too fired up contact us, we'll blaze in and try to cool things off.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: