LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – Eva and Orlando Kipp hired a contractor seven years ago to put an awning on their mobile home, in the Town of Lockport.
The same contractor, Sunbilt Living, came back last year and offered to extend the awning by eight feet for $700, but after the Kipps paid him, they did not see or hear from him again.
“He wanted $800,” Orlando Kipp recalled. “He said he would knock $100 off if we paid him the rest of the money. So we gave him another $700.”
So Eva delivered the money, but “nothing ever happened.” The Kipps have not seen or heard from Sunbilt Living since then.
“He never came back to do it,” said Orlando.
The Kipps have called the Lancaster company many times, since handing over the money last September, but only have been able to leave a message on his voicemail and he doesn’t return her calls.
The Kipps contacted Call 4 Action, but Call 4 Action troubleshooters could not get an answer from Sunbilt either.
“I want money back,” said Eva, but getting a refund is much more difficult when paying with cash. Using a credit card could have led to a much different outcome.
Peggy Penders of the Better Business Bureau pointed out that using a credit card allows you to cancel a transaction if the contractor takes your money and fails to follow through, “particularly because they have protections through that credit card – oftentimes they do – and they also have recourse should something go wrong with the job along the way.”
Penders also warns consumers to never pay a contractor all the money up front, and suggested following the “rule of three.”
She explained, “A third in advance to help with materials, a third at a milestone in the middle of the project, and then a final payment when the job is completed.”
Penders said said that the Bureau has 25 consumer complaints against Sunbilt Living in the last three years, which gives it a “F” rating, with the more serious complaints almost identical to the Kipps’ dilemma.
“Consumers have provided large amounts of money, deposits for the job, and never actually had the job completed. Or it took a very long time for that job to be completed – months, or seasons have changed,” Penders said.
The owner of Sunbilt Living, Joseph Ferrante, did finally call News 4, Thursday afternoon, and the Kipps said he returned their calls, too. Ferrante promised to return the Lockport couple’s $700 in full, next week.