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Valrico woman gets heat pump months after payment

News Channel 8
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Rebecca Journey Smith of Valrico finally got the heat pump she paid for in May.

Smith said she thought she was doing business with a licensed company when she hired Joel Chapa of Joey's Maintenance to install the heat pump and do duct work.  She paid $5,800 of Chapa's $7,800 bill as a down payment.

After the installation, she learned from a TECO energy audit that she did not get the heat pump.

"I wasn't very happy to find out that I had not gotten the unit that I had ordered," Smith said.

She said Chapa wanted the remaining $2,000 before he would install the heat pump.

After a two-month stalemate, Smith contacted 8 On Your Side in August for help.

8 On Your Side directed Smith to Hillsborough County Consumer Protection.

Investigator Eric Olsen found Chapa was operating a business that requires a professional license.

Chapa is not licensed to install a heat pump.  He said he worked for somebody as a subcontractor.

"I work for a friend, I don't know exactly, I work for somebody, I don't work for myself," he said.

Hillsborough County Consumer Protection chief investigator Kevin Jackson said to repair and install air-conditioning/heating units, a person needs a state license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

On Sept. 6, a person identifying himself as Mario Gonzalez of Tran Contracting contacted Consumer Protection and Smith. He told them Chapa works under that company's license.  Gonzalez also goes by the name Mario Vivas.

Gonzalez and Chapa showed up at Smith's Valrico home on Sept. 9 and installed the heat pump.

Smith praised Hillsborough County Consumer Protection and said she learned a valuable lesson.

"Make sure that the people that you worked with are licensed, that's the big thing, if they're not licensed, you don't want them in your house," Smith said.

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