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Homeowner ‘soaked’ by new roof

As winds howled and rain fell so steadily that it seemed to pour from the sky, Vejai Sahadeo cringed with worry over how her home would weather the unseasonable nor’easter that recently slammed into New York City.
Her concern was not that the three-story walk-up at 103-15 115th Street in Richmond Hill that she owns and rents to tenants would be damaged by the springtime torrent. For Sahadeo the worry was more about just how bad the damage would be.
It was worry she felt even more keenly in light of the $9,100 she had paid a contractor six months earlier to install a new roof there. A new roof that did not solve the problem.
In response to widespread complaints throughout the state about the home improvement industry by owners like Sahadeo (in 2004 they ranked sixth among consumer industries according to the state Attorney General’s office) the New York State Consumer Protection Board (CPB) recently launched an investigation into the industry beginning with an online survey now available on its web site at www.nysconsumer.gov.
“Every year, the CPB hears complaints ranging from incomplete or poor workmanship to instances where contractors take upfront payments but never show up for work,” said CPB Chairperson and Executive Director Mindy Bockstein in a statement. “We’ll be looking for solutions that will better protect consumers without stifling work opportunities for contractors.”
Sahadeo learned of water damage to her investment property last November from a tenant and immediately set about having it fixed.
“I don’t know much about construction,” she admitted, explaining that she had called a company listed in the telephone book as United City Roofing. A man named Sam answered the phone and told her that someone would be by to inspect the roof later that day, she said.
That evening a man identified on his business card as Gulsham Gulami from Tekno Builders, not United City Roofing as Sahadeo expected, arrived to look at the roof. He ultimately advised her that it needed replacing and quoted her a price for the job.
Sahadeo said that although she noted that the person who arrived allegedly represented a company she had never contacted, she dismissed the discrepancy by reminding herself that subcontracting is common in the building industry.
Tekno Builders, which is listed at 2705 Colden Avenue in the Bronx on its web site, is licensed in New York City, Yonkers and Westchester County. Representatives in the consumer affairs departments of each locality confirmed that they had no records of complaints waged against the company that predated Sahadeo’s experience.
The company is registered to Muhammad Mudassar Anwar on the New York State Department of State web site.
According to Sahadeo, Gulami, who went by the name George, arrived the next day bearing a contract on what appeared to be Tekno Builders letterhead. The total was for $9,100 and included a five-year warranty. The amount was considerably higher than the $8,400 quoted to her previous day, she said.
Sahadeo reluctantly agreed to pay the new price and gave Gulami $3,000 cash upon signing the contract. She said he was unwilling to provide a receipt so she asked him to acknowledge the payment by signing the contract.
Gulami arrived for work in a truck labeled Tekno Builders and replaced the roof over the coming days, she said.
After completing the job Gulami told Sahadeo that he had underestimated his costs and asked her for an additional $2,500.
“I said, ‘I don’t have any more money to give you. I agreed to $9,100 and I paid you off,’” Sahadeo said, reminding Gulami she had not yet received her warranty.
The following month it rained, the leak reappeared and Sahadeo had still not received a warranty. When she called Tekno Builders, the man who answered said he had never heard of Gulami. She said he told her that someone must have been pretending to be from his company and that he would sue whomever it was.
Upon receiving a telephone call from The Courier Sun, a man who answered at Tekno Builders acknowledged his name was Gulsham Gulami. When questioned about Sahadeo’s roof he identified himself as Muhammad Mudassar Anwar and said he did not know anyone named Gulsham Gulami. He added that he had responded affirmatively at first because his full name is Muhammad Mudassar Anwar Nizami and “Nizami sounds like Gulami.”
He said that Tekno Builders had never worked on Sahadeo’s roof adding, “Somebody is using my license, when I find out who I am going to sue.”
In January Sahadeo’s roof remained unfixed when Gulami called her asking for more money, she said.
“I told him I was not giving him any more money and, ‘If you call me again I’m going to go the police because you are harassing me,’” she said.
“I paid all that money and the problem is still there,” she said. “I was so concerned to fix my roof—I don’t even have a warranty.”
Tony Barbera, manager for the information and investigations department of the Better Business Bureau serving the metropolitan New York region, said. “You should always do your research because then you will have an idea of [the contractor’s] record.” The arrival of an unexpected company or a contractor’s business card that lists no address both merit suspicion, he said.
Additionally, “You can’t treat the Yellow Pages as anything other than a listing of businesses,” he said, adding that some directories do an inadequate job of confirming the legitimacy of a business or the accuracy of an ad.

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