7 On Your Side: Tree service leaves homeowner out on a limb

MAHWAH, New Jersey (WABC) -- It was the recipe for a tragedy - a century-old oak tree with a half dozen dead limbs looming over a yard where young children regularly play.

The property manager tried to do the right thing, hiring a tree surgeon to perform an operation of sorts. After more than three months and bunches of broken promises he finally went out on a limb and called 7 On Your Side for help.

"If a branch falls on them it could kill or injure them," property manager Charlie Coviello said.

It's a potential tragedy caused by six lifeless limbs, hanging more than 40 feet above the backyard of the house he rents and where his tenants' kids play.

"Somebody could be killed," Coviello added.

Last August, Coviello hired a tree surgeon to do a quick operation. He says he was asked for full payment, $719, up front.

"Spoke to the secretary who said the check wouldn't be cashed until the work was completed," says Coviello.

But Coviello says the check was cashed immediately. That was OK since work was scheduled, but the contractor never showed. Coviello then started emailing the contractor, who scheduled the work four separate times, each time, the contractor was a no-show.

"Every promise he's made, he didn't keep," says Coviello.

Renter Steve Guerra was instructed to keep his child out of the backyard for months.

"It was a back-and-forth thing. I mean you hear about it, but you never expect it to happen. I guess scammers are everywhere," said Guerra.

"I said, 'I warned you, if I don't do something, I'm going to 7 On Your Side.'" And that's just what Coviello did. So 7 On Your Side called the tree surgeon himself.

"The next day he was here," Coviello says. The contractor beat him to the house, before 8 the next morning. The contractor apologized, saying he usually never asks for full payments up front and this job 'slipped through the cracks.'

In just hours - all the dead and dangerous branches were gone.

"It's great," said Guerra. "'Cause it was a couple-of-months ordeal."

The big takeaways: When you hire a contractor, get more than one estimate - at least three is ideal. Coviello wasn't very selective -- he only got one.

Next, check credentials like licensing. Remember to NEVER pay in full up front. For a smaller job like this one, payment should have only been done upon completion.

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