Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Help Me Howard: Termite Trouble
They're small, but they can strike big fear into any homeowner. We're talking about termites. One man says he's been paying a company for termite protection for years, but, when the time came to tent his home, they wanted extra cash. Fuming over fumigation, he turned to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you ask his name, he will give you some options.
John Poka: "Janos Poka in Hungarian. Now, John, that's in English, Juan in Spanish, which one you want?"
Since we do the news in English, we'll take John-- now retired in Hollywood after moving from Hungary 50 years ago.
John Poka: "This is tropical. Hungary is not tropical."
True, but it's one of South Florida's hungry tropical troubles that's biting at this man.
John Poka: "Chubby little long ants. Take a look at all the wings they left."
You don't have to be an insect expert to see John's house is infested. Termite wings in his bathtub, termite damage on his door frame and termite droppings on his floor.
John Poka: "A whole pile of it. It upsets me I've got termites in the whole house."
Unfortunately, John knows what these pests look like. His house was infested in 1988, and each year since then he has bought insurance with the extermination company in case they swarm in again.
John Poka: "Every year since I got, 20 years paying, paying, paying every year. When I started it was $80. Now it's $287."
Those years add up a total of $2,200 shelled out for termite insurance, so, when they popped in again, he called the extermination company to get his free tenting.
John Poka: "And he comes around and telling us, giving us all kinds of hullabaloo, bologna."
That's Hungarian for...
John Poka: "A lot of yip, yip, yip and no action."
And, when John told them his house needed tenting, they told him he needed to write a check for that.
John Poka: "I have to pay $800."
That bugs John since he thought those annual payments he has been making for 20 years would require them to tent his house.
John Poka: "All this money I paid in, they are using it all these years, what do I get for it?"
And he knows the answer in any language.
John Poka: "I'm supposed to get the tent without paying $800 on top of what I was paying all these years."
But does paying an extermination company an annual fee guarantee that if your home needs to be tented it will be done for free, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "The answer is in the extermination contract. We have read John's contract, it doesn't say they will tent his house. It says they will control the termites, but the only practical way to do that is to tent his house and for no additional charge."
When we called the extermination company they were quick to respond. They told us this is just a misunderstanding, that the employee says, "He never told John we would charge him. We can't do that to a customer with an existing contract." They then scheduled John's house for tenting for free this month. Good for John and a good reminder for all of us.
Howard Finkelstein: "Keep a copy of everything you sign, every agreement or warranty that you have. Read every word of the document. If the company refuses to honor the agreement, it might be a misunderstanding, or it might be an effort to take advantage of you, so if you are in the right, don't give up."
John Poka: "I appreciate very much, very much, very much."
John is getting his house tented, but when he thinks about having to call Help me Howard to get it done, it makes his Hungarian blood boil.
John Poka: "Sir, the right is right, the wrong is wrong, Hungarian, American, Cuban or whatever."
Patrick Fraser: "All right, John. Now, Howard mentions read your contracts, and, in the case of termite agreements, be careful. John's contract only covered dry wood termites, which he had. If it had been some other kind of termites like subterranean, he would have been out of luck."
Got worries that are bugging you? Need someone to exterminate the problem? Contact us. We know nothing about fumigation, a little about litigation and a lot about determination to get things done.
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