Florida Window & Door customers file complaints, lawsuits

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Susan Salisbury

Published December 4, 2015


The hurricane impact window and door business is booming, but dozens of customers of Florida Window & Door, based in Palm Beach Gardens, have filed complaints alleging bait-and-switch tactics, long delays past the promised date of installation and shoddy work.

Consumers have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency charged with regulating and licensing contractors.

This month, DBPR filed an administrative complaint against Scott Berman, the company’s owner, alleging that he violated a provision of a state statute in a contract for an installation at a house in Jupiter’s Abacoa.

Berman says the more than 50 complaints customers have filed with the Better Business Bureau against his firm in the last three years is not surprising given the volume of business the statewide company handles. The BBB has given the company an “A” rating.

“Given the size of our business, the area we cover and the complexity of jobs we install the complaints as a percentage of our business is minimal as a proportion to the size of our business and amount of customers we deal with in that same 36 month period,” Berman said.

In the past six years, the Florida Attorney General’s office has received 39 complaints against Berman, his current company and his previous company, Florida Window, and 15 of those were since January 2014, said Attorney General spokesman Whitney Ray.

Florida Window shut down

In 2009, the Florida Attorney General’s Office shut down Berman’s previous company, Florida Window, over allegations the business violated state consumer laws. The company paid $118,000 in consumer restitution and $10,000 to Seniors vs. Crime. That same year, Berman established Northfield Holding Corp. doing business as Florida Window & Door.

Now, six years later, that company faces a slew of very similar complaints, some of which are being aired via social media. Customers have created a Facebook page, “Florida-Window-and-Door-is-a-Rip-Off.” The page states, “We are here to shed light on the deceptive practices and shoddy work this company performs.” There is also a You Tube video one customer has posted, which describes his experience.

Berman, though, insists he has worked to resolve any issues with customers.

“Florida Window and Door, as any legitimate business, does everything we can to resolve each complaint to the satisfaction of the homeowner,” he said. “It is impossible to do the amount of business we do without complaints but my staff and I are dedicated and work hard each and every day to make that happen to the best of our ability.”

Nonetheless, DBPR’s Construction Industry Licensing Board placed Berman on probation beginning in April 2010. The probation ended in September, according to DBPR.

Customer complaints lodged in 2009 and earlier were similar to those of recent customers. Customers said jobs were not completed in a timely manner or at all and customers alleged the company substituted cheaper products, according to information released by the AG’s office in September 2009.

DBPR’s new action against Berman alleges that he violated Florida Statute 489.126 by failing to apply for a permit within 30 days after receiving a deposit on a job. The deposit amounted to more than 10 percent of the contract price, and the state requires the permit application to made within that time period.

The complaint asks for the Construction Industry Licensing Board to impose one or more of a variety of penalties listed in the statute, such as probation, a reprimand, license revocation or suspension, financial restitution, fines not to exceed $10,000 per violation and continuing education.

Customer complaints

DBPR’s complaint states that Florida Window & Door entered into a written contract with Ann Leonard of Jupiter for $17,161 on Nov. 20, 2014, and was paid a $5,000 deposit. The company was to install four sliding glass doors and two single doors.

Leonard said the work was supposed to start in January, but it never began.

“I gave them the deposit. The doors never came in and nothing happened. I filed a complaint with DBPR,” said Leonard, whose deposit has not been returned. She hired another company to do the work.

“I don’t want this to happen to somebody else. I don’t like the idea of losing money, but I did not want this to happen to some young couple,” Leonard said.

Berman blames delays on the Leonard’s homeowners association, and said the permit was submitted to the city on Feb. 6.

“We dispute any suggestion that the situation justifies the filing of an administrative complaint with DBPR. We intend to not only respond but defend as any action against or license is unjustified,” Berman said.

Larry Kroll of Palm Beach, a substance abuse program administrator, said he signed a contract with Florida Window & Door for $26,000 in February for 14 impact glass sliding doors for his condominium. The contract stated installation was to be in six to 11 weeks. The windows were not installed until October, and didn’t pass inspection until the fifth time.

“This was one of the most aggravating experiences I have ever had. You promise something in 90 days and it takes eight months. You don’t know what you are getting and when it is coming,” Kroll said.

Ralph Cruikshank of Palm Beach Gardens filed a lawsuit in July in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against Florida Window & Door for its alleged failure to satisfactorily complete the $50,000 job.

“We signed a contract with him two and a half years ago. We are still waiting for the job to be completed,” Cruikshank said.

Cruikshank said one of the new windows cracked and needs to be replaced and another window was installed incorrectly. The company’s workers removed all the mahogany molding from the library’s windows and did not put it back.

Firm says it is owed money

Berman said it is his company that is the aggrieved party. “The contract states we are not responsible for interior trim. Mr. Cruikshank owes us $8,500,” he said.

Meg Buchanan of Bradenton said she and her father paid Florida Window & Door $13,336 for nine windows and two sliding doors.

The Buchanans were told they were getting a specific type of energy-efficient glass, but the manufacturers’ stickers on the glass showed they were lower quality, Buchanan said.

Buchanan wanted all the windows replaced, but said she would settle for $4,000. Berman offered her $1,000.

Edith Garcia, a widow who owns a condominium in the town of Surfside in Miami-Dade County, paid the company a $26,000 deposit on a $56,000 job in February, but the windows still have not been installed, said her sons Alex Garcia and John Garcia.

The Garcias filed a lawsuit against Florida Window & Door in October, and say that the company has not paid supplier TM Windows more than $16,000 it owes. TM has filed a notice that it will place a lien on the condo unit.

“We have no confidence in their quality of product and are suing to get our money refunded,” Alex Garcia said.

Berman said his attorneys are “working toward a solution to install the windows at a time convenient to the customer.”

John Garcia said he is not aware of a solution being proposed, and that FWD’s counsel is only responding to the initial lawsuit and filing a counter suit.

Buchanan, Kroll and other customers question why the company has an A rating with the BBB.

Rodney Davis, BBB CEO and president, said that when checking on a company, consumers should read the complaints as well. The A indicates that the company will resolve any problems customers encounter.

A lawsuit Berman filed in December 2013 against the BBB over a previous “D” rating is ongoing.