The owner of an air conditioning company doing business on the Treasure Coast had his licensed revoked following assorted complaints from local residents and others throughout Florida.
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers began investigating Bayside Cooling Inc. and company owner Michael P. Hubbard after numerous calls from Bayside customers alleging questionable practices by the company.
The state's Department of Business & Professional Regulation revoked Hubbard's contractor's license on Jan. 23 after finding the company did work without acquiring proper permits and inspections and accepted a deposit greater than 10 percent without starting work or applying for a permit within 30 days, department spokeswoman Sandi Poreda wrote in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Hubbard also was disciplined by a Hillsborough County building board.
The order became official Jan. 23 after the state voted to revoke the license in November, Poreda wrote. Poreda also wrote that Hubbard was fined more than $35,000. The business' address is listed as 1716 Kelley Ave., Kissimmee.
More than 30 complaints against Bayside Cooling have been filed by residents through either the state's Department of Business & Professional Regulation or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The number of complaints is not unusual, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Press Secretary Sterling Ivey wrote in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Treasure Coast residents accused Hubbard and Bayside Cooling of selling unnecessary and faulty equipment and service to elderly people and cold calling people on the state's Do Not Call list. Several residents throughout the state also accused Bayside Cooling of falsely claiming the company bought or took over for other air conditioning service providers.
"Hubbard must immediately stop performing work that requires a contractor's license," Poreda wrote. "Since Hubbard was the primary qualifying agent of Bayside, the company will be required to apply for and obtain a new qualifying agent if it plans to continue working. The Construction Board will not grant Bayside's application if Hubbard has any ownership interest in the company."
Hubbard could not be reached for comment and efforts to reach Hubbard through a former attorney proved unsuccessful. Phone numbers provided for Hubbard were either disconnected, wrong numbers or rang without an answering machine picking up. Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers did not receive a response from an email linked to Hubbard. The email, however, did not bounce back as undeliverable.
A woman answered a phone number listed in state records for Bayside Cooling and said she would pass along the message for Hubbard.
To the state's knowledge, Hubbard was not represented in the most recent action against him, Poreda wrote in an email.
Dick Bobertz said Bayside Cooling took advantage of his 93-year-old mother, who lives in Stuart. After seeing that his mother paid $310 to Bayside Cooling in June, Bobertz filed a complaint through the Better Business Bureau.
Bobertz said he had an existing contract with another air conditioning company to service the unit. He said his mother suffers from dementia but is able to live in the condo she has owned for 25 years. Bobertz lives in La Jolla, Calif.
"Bayside Cooling ... has been systematically taking advantage of her by frequently coming to her condo and convincing her she needs work on her air conditioner, tinkering for a short time and then charging her a significant fee," Bobertz wrote to the Better Business Bureau.
In a rebuttal through the Better Business Bureau, Bayside Cooling responded that an appointment was made and confirmed the prior evening.
"(We) saw no evidence of incompetence nor did we detect any evidence of incompetence on our three phone calls before services were rendered," Bayside Cooling wrote to the BBB. "For obvious reasons any future services are restricted and the customer and her son need not worry that we service the above home."
But Bobertz said he later saw his mom wrote a check to Bayside Cooling for $325 in November and another check listed by his mother as for "AC repair" for $800 in January.
OTHER RESIDENTS IRKED
Other complaints filed by customers argued that their homes repeatedly received calls from Bayside Cooling despite being listed on the state's Do Not Call List, which limits the types of solicitations homes can get.
In one such complaint, Bayside Cooling Office Manager Elizabeth Richards wrote, "We use a third party to call our customer databank. This company (assures) us their process is to scrub with both state and federal Do Not Call."
Fort Pierce resident Darleen Sturak, 73, filed a complaint against Bayside Cooling after the company installed an air conditioner at her home. She said she felt as if she was taken advantage of by Bayside, which sold her a new air conditioning unit. Sturak said the unit worked fine, but it was improperly
installed and did not qualify for various rebates she was promised.
"It wasn't tied down," Sturak said. "It was just there. The wind would have blown it over. It took me five months to get it tied down correctly.
"The aggravation they caused me for five months was unbelievable."
Charles Baxter of Vero Beach filed a complaint with the state after being charged more than $230 for a service call and part Baxter said he found for much cheaper.
His wife, Danola, said she thought the two were treated unfairly.
"I was upset because I thought $239 was a little excessive for a service call," she said. "They charged us more for the part than I think they should have."
According to sunbiz.org, Air Medics Clean Air Inc. filed paperwork on Jan. 20 — three days before Hubbard's license was revoked — to do business as Bayside Cooling. The company has the same address but different registered agents. Richards is one of the listed agents. But Poreda wrote in an email to Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers that the Department of Business & Professional Regulation has no record of licenses for the new agent names and someone must apply to the department to become a new licensed primary qualifying agent for the company.
Hubbard is listed as a registered agent on a number of businesses throughout Florida that have been dissolved or have an inactive status, according to the state's Department of State Division of Corporations. The businesses include the names of telemarketing companies and air conditioning companies. Martin's Heating and Air Conditioning, LLC in Stuart is one such business.
Tracy Valentino, whose company Stuart-based Airflow A/C and Heating is not affiliated with Bayside, said Bayside Cooling called one of her customers and said the company had bought Airflow A/C. The customer bought a new air conditioning unit from Bayside Cooling, but the company did not pull a permit, Valentino said.
Valentino said she now has been called in to fix the mess.
"It's a shame," Valentino said. "A/C companies have a bad name, and it's because of people like this."