East Bay contractor under investigation

January 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
An East Bay contractor is under investigation for failing to deliver on a promise. They were supposed to install some new windows, but they never even got the job started.

A couple went to 7 On Your Side when their contractor took a lot of money up front, but never delivered any services. Now, that contractor is being looked at very closely.

Olithia O'Toole's house still has the same drafty windows, a problem for her husband Tom who's battling cancer. "He's a little more sensitive to cold than he used to be," she says. So, the couple hired the company "Sinan Windows" of Oakland to put in new double-paned windows. The contract called for installing 10 of them for $8,900. The only concern was that Sinan demanded a big deposit of 50 percent up front.

"I said OK, as long as I'm going to get some windows and they'll come in a reasonable time, I can turn loose that kind of money," Olithia recalls.

And, she did. She put down $4,495 way back in June. However, when it came time to install the windows in October, Sinan did not show up. "I'm sorry to inform but you my installer's sick," they said. The company canceled then promised a new date. That didn't happen either. "I started calling them and asking them, you know, 'Do you have me on your calendar yet?"

No, she was not on the calendar until the O'Tooles drove to the company offices only to find an abandoned site, a high fence, and a lot of barbed wire. "We were over there knocking on the door and ringing the bell," Olithia says. Finally, she received an email. Sinan's owner said he was laying off employees. There was no telling when the couple would finally get their windows. "He told me, 'I need to come clean with you now. We had to release most of our workers,'" Sinan says.

"Well, I was mad," Tom recalls.

"We're warning consumers that they should be aware that this contractor has had problems, that we are investigating them and they should be concerned and careful if they're going to consider hiring him for any other jobs," says Rick Lopes of the Contractors State License Board.

Lopes says the regulatory agency is investigating complaints from five other consumers who hired Sinan and didn't get their windows. "There are cases where folks have paid 50 percent of the contract price up front and then not received anything in return," he says.

It's illegal in California for a contractor to require a 50 percent deposit for jobs worth more than $500. By law, contractors may only charge 10 percent up front or $1,000, whichever is less. "What we've found in our investigation is that there have been a number of cases where this contractor has admitted to requiring more than 10 percent or $1,000 as a down payment. He had been warned of this before," Lopes says.

Sinan Windows owner Paul Yazejian told 7 On Your Side he would not provide any response for this report. However, in an email to Olithia he said, "I am prepared to refund you the entire amount of your deposit. I am truly embarrassed about this and apologize for the lack of our historically-reputable service."

That was back in October.

"Never got anything," Olithia tells ABC7.

We've learned that while he was ramping down this business, Yazejian was starting a new one. He obtained another state contractor's license in December to operate Sevan Construction. However, Lopes says he is still responsible to repay his old customers.

"Just because he has a new license doesn't mean anything or any problems he had with his old license can be washed away. Our first concern is trying to get the consumers back their money," he says.

"If you get some results, even in increments, that's a whole lot better than nothing," Olithia says.

That's true. And, there's some excellent news just in for the O'Tooles. Sinan Windows told 7 On Your Side it sent them a refund check by mail. Also, the Contractors State License Board says Sinan did refund deposits so far for three consumers who filed complaints and is now making efforts to refund everyone.

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