“This kind of story reaches into every corner of the state of new Hampshire. Middle class people who have bought homes and are trying to make some kind of improvement to their homes, need to have the kind of comfort and protection of knowing that the contractor they hire is somebody who is going to be reputable. Your work is exposing the fraudulent ones out there and they’ve got to be exposed.” –Jim Steiner, Attorney
Tonight, we continue our NH1 News Investigation – Sue for a negative review?
The issue – non disparagement clauses, or gag orders, in contracts.
We first told you about a woman who was scared into silence by a contractor who took her money but didn’t do the job.
She came to us, pleading for help to warn you about that little-known practice.
Acting on a tip, we found the contractor and other homeowners who say the same thing happened to them.
Some too afraid to talk to us on the record—but not all.
That led us on a hunt for answers.
“You need to trust your contractor. You need to assume that that person is going to come in and do the right thing. To have people like that out there, that have no intention of doing the right thing. They just want your money and that’s got to stop,” says Homeowner Linda Lavallee.
Linda loves to buy and renovate homes, taking plenty of pride in the finished product.
“It’s exciting, we do our work to code, we make sure that they’re safe houses, I’d like to think that may grandchildren could live there. 22:12 and it’s a safe place.”
She hired contractor Joshua Garfinkle and his company, NHCRS to do some of the work and liked her first impression.
“He appears to be a nice man, an honorable man, an honest man, a hard-working man,” says Linda.
Her opinion changed after she says Garfinkle botched her kitchen floor…
“It was a tripping hazard, an actual tripping hazard.”
… And failed to properly fix a support beam under a bathtub.
“Josh claims that he did the floor joist repair to code. Multiple times he was asked if it was done to code, and he responded it was to code,” says Linda. She adds, “Only when I had a building inspector come in—he said no way, that’s not to code.”
“What would happen if some little kid was in the bathtub and the floor gives way? It could happen!”
When challenged, Linda says Garfinkle became combative in text messages and deceptive in emails—including this one claiming to be from Sanford Fenster from NHCRS “Contracts and Compliance.” There was one problem with that message.
“I later found out that the person who wrote the letter has been deceased for over seven years,” says Linda.
So, Linda hired a lawyer, but she didn’t get far.
“By the time I paid the attorney to find out that there was nothing I could do, and on top of the monies that I had already paid him and the monies I had to spend in order to fix what he had done, it was a huge amount of money,” says Linda.
About 7 thousand dollars in all. She’s moved on, but not before filing a report with the Better Business Bureau and writing a review on the NHCRS Facebook page. Turns out, Linda’s contract did not include the gag order.
“He obviously had enough issues with people complaining and trying to verbalize their complaints that he had to find a way to stop them. And apparently, he found a way,” says Linda.
She only agreed to share her story—on camera—to help others who can’t.
“It’s a nightmare and he has to be stopped! It’s only because of this woman –with her hands tied—who can’t do anything to get her money back, and can’t do anything to stop him from doing it to someone else—that I’m willing to do this,” says Linda.
Up next—we track down Garfinkle to get some answers. We’ll also show you how our investigation is already driving positive change.