‘They kept my money’: Multiple complaints about the same contractor prompts Action 9 investigation

LAKE MARY, Fla. — Several central Florida families have contacted Action 9 about the same fence contractor. They claim the company walked off with their cash after they paid thousands of dollars in deposits.

“It would go around like that and end up here,” Florence Barnes said.

Barnes was describing where a fence was supposed to be installed at her Lake Mary home. She found the contractor, Allstate Fence and Rail, through Thumbtack.

“Their sales person came out and checked out everything and took measurements and gave me an estimate,” Barnes said.

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She signed a contract in June and gave Allstate Fence a deposit of $1,200.

“I think they’ve stood me up, you trust in a business and they kept my money,” Barnes said.

“They ripped me off of my $1,475.” Antoine Wright said he also gave Allstate Fence and Rail a large deposit and after waiting over 3 months, he paid another company to do the job. Wright said he has tried to get a refund.

“They don’t answer the phone, I can’t email them, their Facebook page disappeared, so I’m kind of at a loss,” Wright said.

In Florida, contractors must apply for permits within 30 days, and must start work within 90 days after it is issued. If the contractor doesn’t follow that timeline, the homeowner could cancel the contract and ask for a refund through a certified letter.

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Both Wright and Barnes had signed their contracts months ago, well beyond the 30 days needed for permits.

Barnes filed a small claims case in Seminole County against Allstate Fence. “He’s breaking the contract. Work’s not done, and I don’t have my money,” she said.

Allstate Fence and Rail, is rated F at the Better Business Bureau for failing to respond to complaints and Action 9 has received 5 complaints from consumers about lost deposits.

Action 9 went to the company’s office in Astatula and found a notice from the landlord on the door. The letter demanded the company pay $9,000 in rent or move out.

Todd Ulrich contacted the company managers by phone and email but they have not responded.

“I’d like to have my money that I gave him returned to me.” Barnes said she will also be filing a police report.

Since COVID-19, lost contractor deposits is a top complaint, Action 9 has received hundreds since last March.

Avoid big deposits whenever possible. Using a credit card is your best chance to get the money back.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.