Often the most prized possession of South Florida’s Caribbean community is their home. But for many residents, finding a reliable service provider to maintain aging homes has proven difficult, with a number of companies actively deceiving their clients on the repairs needed.
That’s what retired Caribbean-American nurse Dorothy Markham found with the constant repairs needed for the 32-year-old home in Pembroke Pines. “[I’ve been] getting the run around and feel I’m being ripped off by incompetent and unconscionable repair people,” says Markham, who recently faced a major repair with her home’s A/C unit. When the A/C unit first stopped working, a repair man she selected from a website charged her $600, “but it worked for three days then died,” said Markham. She was later referred to a Fort Lauderdale A/C company that confirmed the unit had to be replaced, which cost $3500, including labor. The company confirmed she had been duped by the original repair man, since the unit had deteriorated too badly to be repaired. Another A/C company confirmed she needed a new unit.
Local contractor Las Stephens of North Miami says Markham’s experience “is typical of several South Florida homeowners. I have seen several homeowners, most of them retirees, who have been scammed repeatedly by unscrupulous so-called repair people who are inexperienced but charge exorbitant rates.”
He said the problem is caused by these homeowners trying to have the repairs done “as cheaply as possible,” because of their financial constraints. “But picking people off websites or on referral without basis costs them more.”
However, says Stephens, “there are several routes South Florida homeowners can take to have house repair done without being ripped off.”
Instead, Stephens suggests that homeowners looking for reputable repair service providers “contact the local offices of HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development].”
In addition to referrals, says Stephens, the agency also offers loan and insurance programs that facilitate costly repairs, ensuring the repairs are conducted by certified/licensed professionals. “And most lenders will offer qualified homeowners assistance, even through a credit card, to finance repairs like replacing A/C units, instead of people scrimping to save and turning to unscrupulous people.”
Stephens also recommend homeowners “contact the Better Business Bureau for verification of the individual or company if the homeowner doubts their credibility.”