JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An Army veteran turned to the I-TEAM after she gave thousands of dollars to a local company to replace her roof, which was damaged amid Hurricane Irma. Eight months later, the new hurricane season has begun, but the hole in her roof is still not repaired. She can't afford to pay anyone else because of her fixed income.
Glenderlyn Baxter started searching for a contractor right after Irma hit in September. The storm caused a large tree limb to crash through the roof of her Jacksonville home.
"There’s a hole in the ceiling and when it rains a lot, it still, I guess it waters down the top of the branch through the hole in the ceiling," said Baxter. "I had a couple of names, I looked through the phone book, I looked online, and Fernando came."
She said she met with Fernando Hernandez of Hernandez Home Repair and Concrete, LLC, and he said he would replace the roof for $7,500. But she had to pay him half, or $3,750, up front. She’s an Army veteran on a fixed income, but said she decided to pay because the hole in her roof was right over her bedroom.
"There’s a copy of the check and a copy of some of the correspondence," Baxter told the I-TEAM.
Baxter wrote Hernandez a check for the $3,750 deposit in October. But he gave her one excuse after another. She showed us the text messages with him that go back and forth for months.
"He kept saying someone would get the permit, 'I'll be right there,' but it just didn't stop," she said.
Eventually, Baxter said Hernandez Home Repair and Concrete, LLC dropped off shingles at her home. But another contractor told her that they were used shingles and no one could put them on her roof because used shingles cannot be guaranteed.
"So now all I’m left with is a bunch of paper and some old shingles," she said.
The I-TEAM tried calling Hernandez, but he didn't answer. We then went by his home on Jacksonville's Westside, but we had no luck there, either.
Consumer advocates at the Better Business Bureau are looking to talk to him as well.
"He doesn't have a license," said Tom Stephens, president of the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau. "We have had several complaints on him."
Stephens said because the BBB has gotten other similar complaints about Hernandez, it has issued an alert on its website and given the company an "F" rating in the hopes of warning potential customers about his track record.
Neither the BBB nor the I-TEAM could find any contractor’s license for Fernando Hernandez, which is something that the state of Florida requires for all roofers.
"He's breaking the law," said Stephens. "(He) could end up in jail."
The I-TEAM asked, "What's your advice to people? It seems the Better Business Bureau is busy handling these complaints post hurricane of crooked contractors?"
"Yes, it's been a huge issue in the last year," answered Stephens.
To protect yourself, Stephens said you need to remember the following:
- Always do your homework on a business.
- Check with the BBB to see if a business is rated.
- Don't take a contractor's word. Look up the contractor at MyFloridaLicense.com to make sure he or she is in fact licensed with the state.
- Try to avoid making large deposits before work is done.
"I don’t know what else to do but tell somebody about, you know, about all this because I don’t know if he just decided that I was the one to be the victim, but it’s not good," said Baxter.
The veteran just wants her new roof, so the leak in her bedroom stops and so she is protected if another storm comes our way.
Baxter said she has filed complaints with not only the BBB, but also Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in order to get some answers and hopefully some justice.
Direct links to file a complaint against a Florida contractor or business: