Greece, N.Y. --- What do you do when a contractor takes your money and doesn't do the work you paid him for? It’s a problem many people face and even the proper legal action can sometimes yield few results.
Following a 13WHAM News Your Stories Investigation into a snow plow company last month, we heard from many viewers in similar situations with other contractors.
For John Salva his fight is entering its third year. In April 2009 he hired Forever Dry of Western NY to fix a drainage issue in his backyard that results in the constant presence of standing water.
“After a rain storm it will stay soggy,” Salva explained while showing 13WHAM News the trouble-spot in his yard. “If you listen it sounds like you're stepping on a wet sponge and it will stay like this for three or four weeks if there's no rain after that.”
Salva signed a contract with Forever Dry of Western NY and even agreed to pay a down-payment of $1,250. The check was cashed that same day but Salva claims he never saw the owner again and his repeated attempts to get the work done or a refund ended with a trip to Small Claims Court.
"He (the Owner) told me I'll see you in small claims court,” Salva recalled of his contractor’s threat to initially sue. “He never showed up in Small Claims Court so I won the judgment by default."
Records on file with the Monroe County Clerk’s Office show that Salva is not alone in his quest to retrieve money from Forever Dry of Western NY. Four unpaid judgments against the business total more than $27,000. Salva’s is for work not completed, a Fairport man’s $1,870 judgment is for work not done correctly. A $16,495 judgment is from an Ohio-based company that provides online and phone book advertising services to businesses. A spokeswoman for the company would not discuss the litigation.
A trip to the contractor’s business address brought us to his home in a nice Greece neighborhood. Tools and a snowplow hitch were evident in the driveway as was a large pickup truck with a 2005 Better Business Bureau accreditation sticker affixed to the window.
The Better Business Bureau does not list Forever Dry of Western NY as an accredited business and the BBB gives the company an “F” rating based on unsatisfied complaints from customers about product or service.
At the door a man answered and just as quickly slammed it shut again upon seeing our news crew. Attempts to contact the owner for more than a day since then were unsuccessful and the woman who answered the phone number listed as belonging to the business said she did not know about the business nor its owner.
At this time 13WHAM News has been unable to determine if Forever Dry of Western NY is still in operation or a reason why it would not still be open.
"A money judgment is good for 20 years but that's a piece of paper,” former Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez said. “You may need to hire a lawyer to collect."
Rodriguez has seen these situations countless times and while he is a big supporter of the Small Claims Court process he understands it has its limitations.
"If you go over to City Court there are probably thousands of uncollected judgments over there where people got their judgment and forgot about it,” Rodriguez said.
In this situation Salva did the right thing to follow up with the Town of Greece’s Marshall and that court officer did get Forever Dry of Western NY’s owner to fill out a Subpoena for Information. Only the owner claimed his weekly salary was $0 which left Salva with few options.
"The system or the process doesn't seem to favor the consumer," Salva said.
In the case of Forever Dry of Western NY Rodriguez believes the amount of judgments against the company could help Salva’s case. Filing for “treble damages” is possible when three or more judgments have gone unsatisfied according to Rodriguez. The judgments could also serve as a lien against the owner’s property if he should sell his home since all remain on file with the County Clerk.
***Carlos Rodriguez has specialized in dealing with consumer fraud scams and he currently hosts a segment called “Carlos in your Corner” on The Property Source Radio which airs in Rochester on 950AM ESPN Radio Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.***