Unlicensed air conditioning contractors prey on bay area consumers

Company does shoddy work, then shuts doors

PALM HARBOR - We're just hearing of growing complaints Friday centering on shoddy contractors.

Homeowners are bringing them into their houses to replace air conditioners, only to end up hot under the collar afterwards because of poor work.

“You can see everything is misaligned. It never went back in the same spot,” said Dennis Meagher, demonstrating problems with the $3,500 new air conditioning system he purchased three months ago.

It all started when he contracted with a company that sent a flier in the mail.

He wanted to replace the 20-year-old system in his condo unit, and the company listed in the flier offered the best price and the longest period of free service calls.

But he noticed something was wrong when a man from the company came to his home to install it.

“They couldn't get the unit in. They had to take it apart and fold it to get it into the unit,” Meagher said.

A major leak and multiple service calls followed.

“Three times after that, they had to come out and replace parts,” Meagher said.

The company, which promised a 10-year warranty, is now out of business.

“I didn't ask if they had a license. I assume they did. They had a truck with the name on it and everything,” said Meagher.

“Unfortunately, they do have individuals that will take advantage of consumers. So consumers need to be armed with information,” said Anna Marie Millett of Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services.

She said consumers should get referrals, verify licenses and check with her office or the Better Business Bureau, which gives the company an “F” rating.

That company was not licensed in Pinellas County, never sought permits and was operating under the license of a South Florida contractor, who told the I-Team that he had no idea the company was doing installation work in the Tampa Bay Area.

“I asked them several times where their main office was, and they wouldn't tell me over the phone. There's another red flag I ignored,” said Meagher.

Meagher also paid in full with cash, so he can't stop payment.

“Don’t pay in cash,” said Millett. “Don't write out checks to individuals. The best payment would be through credit card. If there's an issue, you can dispute it.”

Three cases against the company are under investigation, but there's no guarantee Meagher will get any money back.

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