Beach couple, taken for $10,000 by HVAC contractor, gets rare payout from state consumer protection fund

Virginia

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A couple who had paid a contractor $10,000 to install a faulty, undersized HVAC system has received a payment from the Contractor Transaction Recovery Fund.

Joe and Toby Rissin hired Antwain Chatman and his company HCEC to install the system in the fall of 2018. They say for the next 10 months, the system never worked properly, despite Chatman’s frequent visits and reassurances.

The Rissins contacted 10 On Your Side and we were able to get Chatman on camera saying he would resolve the problems. Then, he went a step further and visited the Rissins, and told them he’d refund their money and remove the faulty equipment. In the end, he did neither and the couple never heard from Chatman again.

“I hate being taken advantage of,” Joe Rissin said Wednesday morning from his home near Virginia Wesleyan University.

The Rissins see Chatman as bold and brazen, but not believable.

“I was really surprised that he came here and in front of the camera, he admitted that he was wrong and then took off,” Toby Rissin said.

10 On Your Side told them about the state Contractor Transaction Recovery Fund in Richmond.

“You need more than just, ‘He did a bad job,'” said attorney Brian Miller who represented the Rissins for their claim to the state fund. Miller says he can count on one hand the number of awards he has seen from the fund in the past 30 years.

“[Chatman] clearly took a job for which he was not qualified, but that in and of itself would not have enabled them to recover,” Miller said.

To recover any money, the fund requires two key elements: the contractor has to be licensed, and the consumer has to show evidence of fraud. Chatman held a Class A Virginia contractor license.

For the Rissins, the trail of evidence was a combination of text messages Chatman had sent them and a series of investigative stories by 10 On Your Side.

“The video clips that [10 On Your Side was] able to obtain and the text messages that he sent to Mr. Rissin where he was making all sorts of false promises,” were the necessary proof to make their case, according to Miller.

The Rissins paid a second contractor $16,000 for a proper system. They were awarded the maximum $20,000 from the fund but had to pay attorney’s fees and other costs, and netted $13,200. Not to mention the inconvenience of 10 months of being too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer and hours on end of chasing a contractor and dealing with documents, attorneys and state regulators.

But the award has Toby Rissin feeling “fantastic, I am so glad that someone recommended you. I don’t know what we would have done without [10 On Your Side] and you recommended a great lawyer.”

At one point, Chatman communicated with WAVY-TV 10 about the Rissins and several other clients who had complained about his work. We attempted to contact him Wednesday afternoon. He did not immediately return our message.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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