Bounced checks, broken windows: 2 Investigates homeowner ripoff

Six months since 2 Investigates uncovered stunning allegations involving energy efficient windows, homeowners say they are just now getting the remedy they deserve.

“I can’t even tell you how exhausted I am,” customer Juanita Higares said.

For more than a dozen people, it began when they got bids and contracts to replace their home windows with something more energy efficient.

“I wanted to filter out the heat,” homeowners like Cathy Lacy said.

She and several others say they specifically asked for windows with a Low E3 rating.

E3 refers to the number of coatings on the glass, making it more energy efficient and more expensive.

“A lot of the customers would request low E3,” Mark Torres said.

He sold Lacy and others their windows, marked “E3” on their contracts, and signed on the bottom line as “Company Representative” for a company called Anamar Windows and a contractor called Clear Vision.

“He was so great,” Lacy said, “and told me, ‘Yeah, you want the E3s, this is definitely what you want,’ and I said, ‘Oh, good, because I gotta make sure I’m getting the right thing.”

“She asked for low E3, did she get it?” Investigative Reporter Ross Palombo asked Torres.

“No,” Torres said.

In fact, 2 Investigates obtained more than a dozen contracts from homes across the Bay Area. Torres claims that neither Anamar Windows nor Clear Vision delivered or installed the correct windows. Torres was fired from Anamar windows before coming forward with these allegations and has had several legal entanglements with his former employer.

2 Investigates tested 13 of these homes with a glass-reading device and found discrepancies in 12 of them.

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The contracts said E3, but the testing device said the glass was, in fact, E2.

That is a lower energy efficient rating on glass  and sold at a lower price.

“Every window is not what they paid for?” Palombo asked engineer and window competitor Keith Perry.
“That’s right, yeah,” Perry said. “I think it’s a violation of the owners’ trust!”

“It’s just not right!” Lacy said.
“I was ripped off!” Higares said.

Several customers took those results and allegations to the company itself.  The company then agreed to take action.

“Did they tell you that you have the wrong windows?” Palombo asked.
“Yes,” Higares said.
“And what did they say they would do?”
“They would replace them,” Higares said.

For many, though, getting them replaced was another problem altogether. Higares said installers came out three times, sometimes with mis-measured windows.  She says they didn’t get it right until the end of October.  That’s almost exactly a year from her original order date of November 23, 2015.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Higares said while throwing her hands up in the air.

Cathy Lacy says she also is just now getting the work finished on her kitchen windows.  She says they had to be replaced twice on an order that is also a year old.

Another customer, who only wanted to be identified as “Marla,” says it took 8 times for Anamar and Clear Vision to get her order right.  She says they brought the wrong windows, and even windows with broken glass, over to her home again and again. Her order, as well, was nearly a year old.

“I feel like the job continues and continues and there’s never and end in sight,” Marla said.

2 Investigates tried for weeks to get answers from owner Andres Bautista.  He first agreed to an on-camera interview and later canceled. He eventually agreed to a phone interview.

“How is it possible that these homeowners got the wrong windows and didn’t get the windows they paid for?” Palombo asked. After first blaming fired whistleblower Mark Torres, Bautista did take eventually responsibility.

“Yeah, we’re responsible, “ Bautista said. “At the end of the day we’re responsible… ‘cause we hired Mark and, for that, we went to go change everything and we made everything right”
“It’s been almost exactly a year…to get these problems corrected,” Palombo said.
“Yes.”
“Does that seem outrageous to you?”
“Yes it does, and that’s why we reimbursed the people,” Bautista said.

In several cases, they tried to send customers amounts ranging from $75 to $800, but three customers claim those checks bounced. Bautista sent 2Investigates a police report saying that his checkbook had been stolen to explain this, but no checkbook was listed on the report.

“What do you have to say to these people that you’ve bounced checks on?” Palombo asked.
“It was out of my control, I’m sorry,” Bautista said.

“Wow!” Perry said. Even those who got paid, and didn’t get new windows, Perry said, could have yet another problem.

“Because they’ve installed windows that don’t meet the building code,” Perry said.

In at least three cases, Perry says the windows customers got did not meet local building requirements.

“It’s still illegal,” Perry said.
“The homeowners are still at risk?” Palombo asked
“Right.”

When asked about that, Bautista said,  “Yeah, we don’t know codes in every city.”
“Well, isn’t it your job to check?” Palombo asked.
“Yes.”
“They why didn’t you check?”
“I need to check and see if that’s accurate,” Bautista said.

After checking, Bautista insisted that the windows in those cases are legal and do meet building requirements.

2 Investigates also rechecked several of the windows that were replaced and the glass is now correct in all of them..

“So, job well done?” Palombo asked.
“Job done.  I don’t know about well done,” Perry said.

Now, a year after the initial window orders, and after all of the cloudy details and controversy, the glass appears to finally be correct.  For some, though, the view from their new windows isn’t the same.

“It’s incomprehensible,” Marla said. “If everyone did business this way… the economy would collapse.”

Bautista says all of the cases have now been resolved.  Some customers got new windows, some of them got money, and some of them got both. All of the bounced checks, he says, have also been re-written.

In the wake of 2Investgates’ questions, the company also says it has put new safeguards in place.  It has hired a quality control manager, is inspecting every new windows, are now only using Low E3 windows in the Bay Area, and is putting every new salesperson through background checks.

By KTVU reporter Ross Palombo.

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