Consumers who sign a home improvement contract in New Jersey have a three-day right of rescission. If they change their mind and notify the contractor in writing by midnight of the third business day, the contractor must honor the cancellation and give a refund within 30 days.
Aqua-Dri, a basement waterproofing company featured in this column twice before, doesn’t seem to be honoring that regulation — even when it’s explicitly stated in its own contract.
Dennis Sullivan of Midland Park gave Aqua-Dri a $5,000 deposit on a $15,000 waterproofing job on July 15.
After the contract was signed and the Aqua-Dri rep left, Sullivan had second thoughts.
“They said there was toxic mold,” Sullivan said. “My wife said to me, ‘I don’t think we need this.’ ”
The contract was signed on a Thursday, so the three business days would expire at midnight the following Tuesday. On Tuesday at 7:25 p.m., Sullivan faxed a cancellation to Aqua-Dri, according to a fax receipt Sullivan shared with Bamboozled.
Three days later, Sullivan said he received a phone call from Aqua-Dri’s Al Demola, a man whose position with the company came into question last year.
A bit of background: In December, Bamboozled profiled Arlene and John Dolce of Roseland. They paid a $3,000 deposit to Aqua-Dri, and like Sullivan, they cancelled in writing within three days. Aqua-Dri refused to return the deposit.
In Bamboozled’s quest for a refund, we spoke extensively about the case with Al Demola. He insisted he was only an employee, even though he’s listed as the president on corporate filings. Demola said Richard Aboussleman is the owner, and yes, Aboussleman — who public records show once shared a North Brunswick address with Demola — is listed as “incorporator” on the same filings.
We talked to Aboussleman, but he too denied ownership. He told us Demola is Aqua-Dri, and he said, “I have nothing to do with that company.” (Aboussleman’s name has since been added to Aqua-Dri’s corporate filings in Connecticut and is also on the company’s contracting license in New Jersey.)
But it was Demola, after weeks of negotiations and even though he told Bamboozled he had been fired by Aqua-Dri, who finally offered to return the deposit to the Dolces. Back to Sullivan and his phone call from Demola.
Sullivan said Demola offered a discount on the job, but Sullivan declined.
“Then Demola said he wasn’t going to return the money,” he said.
Sullivan said he and his attorney got nowhere with months of calls to Aqua-Dri and Demola. Sullivan even said one rep said he wasn’t due a refund because Saturday and Sunday count as business days. The last time Sullivan called was early April, he said, and the receptionist said someone would call him back.
No one did.
“I’m going to have to file in small claims,” Sullivan said. “This guy has to be put out of business.”
THE THRIFTY CONNECTION
Back in December, we asked Demola if he had any connection to a new waterproofing company, Thrifty Waterproofing of Cranbury. He said no.
We asked because Thrifty — at least on paper — is headed by Demola’s wife, Kim Costa. We wondered if Demola, given Aqua-Dri’s “F” rating with the BBB, had started a new company with the help of Costa. He denied involvement last year and said he and his wife were separating.
But there’s evidence to the contrary, according to Hasbrouck Heights residents Emmanuel and Sandy Roldan.
The couple hired Thrifty in March for an $11,000 job. They said part of the job was completed the following day, but there were several problems, including a drainage pipe that ended in the middle of the backyard, near the pool — not an ideal place for unwanted water.
Roldan said he negotiated with the company to fix the job. A crew came on April 2 and fixed some items, but not the pipe.
Uncomfortable with the status of the job, Roldan asked the worker for contact numbers for Thrifty’s bosses. He said he was given two numbers.
“One of the numbers says the caller is not available, and the second went to some guy named Al Demola,” Roldan said.
The same Al Demola who denied having any relationship with Thrifty.
Roldan said Demola’s voice mailbox was full, so he called the office again. After several calls, another service date was set but this time Roldan said he was told it would cost an additional $40 per foot to extend the drainage pipe. That would be $800 more for the 20-foot extension. Roldan didn’t want to pay, but he also wanted the extension, he said, so he stopped fighting.
But then, the crew never showed. That’s when Roldan called Bamboozled.
Before addressing the Demola factor, we wanted to see if Thrifty would complete the job as stated on the contract, which would include the drainage pipe extension with no additional charge.
We spoke to a worker who asked not to be named, and he promised the job would be completed.
Just after, Roldan got a call from the same worker.
“All of a sudden they want to help me? They could have done this a month ago and they kept me on a rope,” Roldan said. “They kept giving me the runaround.”
On May 25, the crews completed the job with no additional charge for the extended pipe.
Roldan said for now, he’s happy with the work.
“Let’s see what happens when it rains,” Roldan said. “I just want to make sure no one else has to go through what I went through.”
WHAT ABOUT AQUA-DRI?
While Thrifty Waterproofing has no rating with the Better Business Bureau, the BBB received 41 complaints about Aqua-Dri in the past 36 months, maintaining the firm’s “F” rating.
The Middlesex County consumer affairs office has 20 customer complaints, said assistant director Dawn Brown. Of those, 16 have been resolved and four are outstanding.
Since 2010, Aqua-Dri has been sued in small claims court at least 12 times: three cases were settled, three resulted in default judgments, four are still active and two were dismissed, according to court records. There were no suits involving Thrifty.
We tried to contact Aqua-Dri about Sullivan’s refund, but the company’s telephone number is out of service.
Messages for Al Demola and his attorney were not returned.
Neither were messages for Kim Costa, who we were hoping could shed light on Demola’s involvement with her company.
And we’re still keeping an eye on the older Aqua-Dri case of Jere Brill, once featured in this column. Brill is pursuing Demola and Aqua-Dri in court for what she says were unsatisfactory services in both her Wayne home and a shore property.
More to come, we’re sure.