Bamboozled April 13, 2019: No-show contractor makes promises, but never returns money, senior citizen says

Jo Ann Smith stands next to her new French doors. The original contractor who was supposed to do the work took a deposit but never came to do the work,and he hasn't returned the deposit, Smith says. (Courtesy Jo Ann Smith)

Jo Ann Smith stands next to her new French doors. The original contractor who was supposed to do the work took a deposit but never came to do the work,and he hasn’t returned the deposit, Smith says. (Courtesy Jo Ann Smith)

Jo Ann Smith needed to do some work on her Monroe home.

She wanted to replace an old sliding door with French doors, alter a wall and add new sheet rock.

In October 2018, she hired the owner of JPM Home Solutions of Jamesburg, to do the work.

The contract, for $1,696, was for labor only. Smith would purchase the materials herself, the contract shows, and Moran would do the installation.

Smith gave John Moran a deposit of $593.60 on Oct. 11, 2018, documents show.

Moran said the work would start in about two weeks, but the work never happened, Smith said.

“He never started the job and did no work whatsoever,” Smith said. “He just kept stalling and giving me excuse after excuse.”

Things went downhill pretty quickly, Smith said.

What went down

Smith lives in a 55-and-older community, and the homeowners association requires contractors to provide a copy of their insurance certificate before work can begin.

Smith waited patiently for the proof of insurance, but despite multiple requests over the next month, Moran didn’t provide one, she said.

“Another two weeks go by with no proof of insurance,” Smith said.”I called and asked him what the problem was. He sent back a text saying he didn’t know why I hadn’t received [the insurance certificate], but he offered to look into it with his insurance company.”

That didn’t really make sense. Contractors should have on file their own proof of insurance so they can present it to customers – something required by state law.

By Nov. 29, Smith had enough. She sent Moran a text terminating the contract.

“He then sent me a text message saying he would return my deposit,” Smith said.

Moran specifically said he would mail a check, text messages provided by Smith show.

No check arrived, Smith said, so she texted the contractor again to ask where the check was. He responded by saying he sent a money order and not a check, messages show.

“I asked for the tracking number on the receipt and of course he said he lost it.,” Smith said. He also said he would then send a check, which he never did, she said. And then he promised he would come in person and give me cash. Of course he never showed up, she added.

Smith next sent a demand letter on Dec. 13, certified mail, return receipt requested.

Records show the letter was signed for, but in subsequent text messages, Moran said he didn’t know anything about a certified letter.

Once again, he promised to mail a check, and once again, no check arrived.

On Dec. 29, Smith filed a complaint with Consumer Affairs.

She waited for something to happen, but no progress was made.

On April 4, not sure what else to do, Smith filed a police report.

“As a senior citizen living on a fixed income, I really can’t afford to hire an attorney to help,” Smith said. “I’m so sorry that I did not do more research before I hired him. I really can’t afford to lose this money and I don’t feel he has the right to keep it.”

Then she asked Bamboozled for help.

The no-show continues

We reached out to Moran, and while we waited for a call back, we took a closer look at his business.

Moran does have a current Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) registration with New Jersey.

Consumer Affairs has one complaint against the company – we think it’s Smith’s complaint.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has two complaints against Moran in the last 12 months, and neither was answered by the company. BBB gives the company an “F” rating.

We also took a closer look at the contract. The law requires that contracts include start and end dates for a project. There were no dates on the contract Moran gave to Smith.

We left multiple voicemails and sent several texts and Facebook messages to Moran – he had conversations with Smith over Facebook, records show – but over the course of a week, he didn’t respond.

Smith, who hired another contractor to do the work, is left with no choice but to go to small claims court, but she knows there’s no guarantee of payment even if she wins.

She just wants her deposit back.

“Sad that a business would think it is acceptable to have such poor work ethic, and take advantage of people in this manner,” Smith said.

Dear readers, we know spring is prime time for home improvements. Before you hire anyone to work on your home, read this story about how to choose a reputable contractor.

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