7 On Your Side: Homeowner claims ripoff by 'shady' awning contractor

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Nine Pineda has tips on how to avoid bad contractors.

A longtime Long Beach resident has been in the same house for more than 40 years, and he's weathered a lot, including recently raising his home after Superstorm Sandy's surge subsided.

But now, the retired police officer says he got soaked after a contractor left him high and dry. That's when George Gentilesco Sr. radioed for back up from 7 On Your Side.

"Essentially, they're ripping people off," George Gentilesco Jr. said.

He is not shy to share his opinion of Elite Awnings and Fencing, which he says took his dad's down payment, then disappeared.

"I'm out $1,750," Gentilesco Sr. said. "No awning."

He paid back in mid July to have the company install a 22-foot retractable awning running the length of his roof line, all to give the fair-skinned homeowner a little shade in his sunset years.

"We set up a date for him to come and install it, and they never showed up on that date," Gentilesco Jr. said.

Gentilesco Sr. said he kept leaving messages, asking where the contractor was and when the work would be done. Finally, Elite Awnings and Fencing emailed, blaming the delay on something unexpected.

"A death in the family," Gentilesco Sr. said. "Then they said the wrong color was delivered."

The father and son said they were finally promised a refund, but a day later, the company reneged, complaining the customer was calling and harassing them too much.

"It's a helpless feeling, especially when it's your dad, your best friend," Gentilesco Jr. said.

According to Nassau County Consumer Affairs, Elite Awnings and Fencing, located on 39th Street in Brooklyn, has never been licensed as a home improvement contractor, a violation of consumer laws. And days after we made contact, the contractor caved, express mailing two money orders totaling $1,750, a full refund.

"Thank you very much, couldn't have done it without you," Gentilesco Sr. said.

"I feel vindicated," Gentilesco Jr. said. "Like the good guy won."

Elite Awnings and Fencing claimed it doesn't have to be licensed because it's company merely sells to consumers, farming the work out to subcontractors. But consumer Affairs says that's simply not true. Which brings us to the big takeaway.

Before you sign a contract, make sure the company name on the top of your signed contract is licensed as a home improvement contractor in your county or municipality. Elite wasn't. Also, don't pay in full up front. George didn't, which was a good move.

Finally, do your research. Look for reviews, and ask for recommendations before you get out your checkbook.

Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Send us your questions, issues, and story ideas to by filling out the form above, by emailing 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com, or contact Nina on her Facebook page or tweet her at Twitter @7OnYourSideNY! You can also call the 7 On Your Side Hotline at 917-260-7697.
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