Vetting your contractor and customer

Best intentions turned sour for homeowner and repairman


It began with the best of intentions.

Scott Dellahoy, a fire chief from the upstate Ellery Center Fire Department, traveled down from the western New York town of Dewittville to aid fellow firefighters after Hurricane Sandy struck.

Ilanit Sternberg’s Redwood Drive home in Cedarhurst was severely damaged in the storm. Four feet of water washed through the entire first floor of the house. Water bubbled up through the crawl space during the storm damaging the playroom, pantry, den, bathroom and storage room.

Through her brother Moshe Bellehsen, a lieutenant in the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department, Sternberg learned of Dellahoy. “I hired him on November 23,” Sternberg said, “for everything soup to nuts.”

At a cost of $15,890, Dellahoy was expected to repair the first floor, including the walls, electric, plumbing and heating, along with pumping water of the crawl space. He served as the general contractor on the job and was to hire an electrician and plumber, said Sternberg, who gave him $12,000 to begin the job.

“He seemed to have started work quickly, putting up insulation and sheet rock in a short time,” she said, adding Dellahoy began on Dec. 5 and completed that work in two days. “Then the excuses came. He was going back upstate for a few days for something.” A boiler that was supposed to be installed by Dellahoy wasn’t, Sternberg said.

When Dellahoy went home for Christmas, they traded text messages, she said, and he claimed he would restart the job on Dec. 27. Sternberg said Dellahoy didn’t show. He did the same thing on Dec. 28, Sternberg said.

After water collected in the crawl space, Sternberg called Dellahoy. He came on Dec. 31, for approximately 45 minutes to adjust the sump pump. According to Sternberg, Dellahoy promised her that she soon “will have a smile back on my face” and that he “has a crew of four guys coming everyday” to Sternberg’s house.

On New Year’s Day, Dellahoy, by himself, worked for about two hours plastering the walls, Sternberg said, adding that the work was horrendous. She fired him on Jan. 4.

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