PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- It was a 7 On Your Side record for the most days spent looking for an elusive contractor who kept promising us he would make our viewer whole but instead kept stringing us -- and his customer -- along.
And the homeowner, Lina Aguilar, was getting more and more frustrated.
"That's my money," she said. "We work very hard, and that's my money."
With three kids to raise and aging parents living with them, too, the homemaker and housekeeper is also fighting Lupus. That means she and her husband are watching every penny of their pay.
"We are not rich people," she said. "I told him, maybe $2,000 is not a lot for people, it's a lot for us. He didn't care."
She's talking about the contractor she paid last September, putting $2,000 down to fix the leaking roof and gutters on their Paterson, New Jersey, home.
The couple signed a detailed contract with the licensed contractor, and it had a start date, end date and details on payment structure that the contractor extended to six-month installments.
The first surprise came when the roofer no-showed on the start date.
"He texted me, 'I'm on my way,' but he never came," she said. "I call him every day. He has different excuses."
After a few weeks, she demanded a refund. The contractor delivered a check, which bounced.
We spoke to the contractor, who promised us he would pay her back. But week after week, he skipped pre-set dates. So we went looking for him at the office -- at his home, which is listed as a business address. A woman who said she was the company owner's sister told 7 On Your Side, "The company is under his name but he has nothing to do with it."
"Well, he wrote the check to her," Nina Pineda replied. "So he has to have something to do with it."
We learned through social media that the roofer, who was properly licensed with the state, closed his company and went to work for someone else. So we went looking for him there too.
The roofer blamed the delay on the homeowner, saying he had already purchased $2,000 worth of material for her job when she canceled. But after some convincing, he came through with the cash. It just took three months.
"You got it, you did it," Aguilar said. "I can't believe it. Thank you 7 On Your side for all your hard work. It's because of you we got our money back. Thank you so much. Thank you."
The big takeaway is that before hiring a contractor, get at least three estimates. And it's best not to make your decision based solely on price. Aguilar did when she got a low ball offer, and she got burned.
Next, check references from past clients. And in addition to checking whether they're licensed, ask how long they've been in business. This contractor was in business less than a year before he went under. Generally, the longer the contractor's track record, the better.
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7 On Your Side gets New Jersey homeowner's overdue refund from elusive roofer
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