Recovering a woman's life savings

Seven On Your Side
April 5, 2008 7:59:39 AM PDT
A mother from Brooklyn was on the losing end of a land deal that went horribly wrong. At stake was her life savings, tens of thousands of dollars. And standing in her way was one of the biggest builders in our area.

It took Tappy Phillips and Seven On Your Side to get her nest egg back.

Janet Redden has saved for years to buy a ticket out of the projects.

Tappy: "This was going to be your dream home?"
Janet Redden: "This is my dream home, exactly."

She's talking about a condo complex being built 70 miles north of her native Bed-Stuy.

A year ago, Redden sent three checks totaling nearly $40,000 to contract with big builder K. Hovnanian.

Tappy: "So this was a big step?"
Redden: "Exactly. A big jump."

But last January, the builder told Janet there was an environmental concern. Her condo was being built on top of crushed asphalt and concrete.

"This is not good," Redden said. "Why would I want to gamble with my health?"

Tappy: "How serious an issue is this?"
Steve Caporaso, K. Hovnanian Homes: "The soil is an old construction debris pit. We are working within the parameters of the state regulations to remediate the issue at that area."

Still, Hovnanian gave Janet 15 days to cancel the deal and get a refund. So she faxed in the refund request within days. K. Hovnanian even promised to have her deposits returned. But that didn't happen.

Redden: "She told me I'm not getting any of my money back."
Tappy: "The whole $40,000?"
Redden: "Correct."

The builder said that even though they received the fax on time, they didn't get the signed hard copy in a timely manner.

Tappy: "This is your dream, going up in smoke."
Redden: "Exactly."

But after we made one phone call to K. Hovnanian?

"We absolutely regret," Caporaso said. "This company has been around for 50 years, and we strive for customer satisfaction."

They agreed to refund Janet's deposit in full.

Redden: "Thank you."
Tappy: "You're so welcome. It's been a long road for you?"
Redden: "Oh yes. Yes it has."