T is an 80 year-old homeowner living on a fixed income. Although money is tight, she takes great pride in her home and garden. Until his death five years ago, Mrs. T's husband handled the majority of the home maintenance.
Last fall, Mrs. T was approached by a friendly contractor who told her that some of her roof shingles looked water-soaked. Since Mrs. T had noticed a small leak in her bedroom, she asked for an estimate. The contractor went up to the roof, pulled off some roof shingles, and put up a tarpaulin. He told Mrs. T that he had found a major leak and that he needed to replace some roof beams as well as the entire roof. When Mrs. T expressed concern about the cost, the contractor told her that he would give her a senior citizen discount price of $8,000 and arrange for "market rate financing.".
The contractor began work the next day and pulled off much of the roof. A few days later, he brought Mrs. T a loan contract from "We Care Finance Company." Mrs. T discovered that the loan was for $27,500 at 16% interest. When she reminded the contractor that the price was supposed to be $8,000 financed at a market rate, he told her that the work was more extensive than he had originally thought and that the finance company had imposed some "points and fees" that raised the price of the loan. He claimed that since the work was "half done," she had to sign the loan contract to pay for the work. He threatened to "abandon the project and put a mechanic's lien on the house." Since winter was coming, Mrs. T panicked and signed the papers presented.
Six months later, the new roof is leaking more than the old one ever did. Mrs. T's floors and walls are damaged. She stopped making loan payments because the work was so bad. "We Care Mortgage" has sent foreclosure papers to the home. An employee of "We Care" told her, "You hired the contractor and we are not responsible. The loan you signed with us is a separate matter.