A woman in Enfield, N.S. says a construction company's inability to pay her $17,000 small court settlement has left her broke and frustrated.

Three years ago, Deborah Bennett contracted E.E.O.R.E Construction Ltd, of Fall River, to supply and install three heat pumps at her home.

She said she paid $14,000 but the company's owner, Troy Mailman, didn't install the units properly.

Bennett said the indoor units drip water, and the outdoor unit is so loud it keeps her neighbours awake. 

"It's been a nightmare. We have no heat half the time, we have no cooling," said Bennett.

On June 25, a small claims court adjudicator ruled in her favour, awarding $17,000 to be paid by Mailman. Bennett says she's received no money, and has spent $12,000 on legal fees and $5,000 on attempting to reinstall the heat pumps.

Mailman says he has no assets or money, and that his company went bankrupt in 2014 — a year before Bennett took him to small claims court.

He agreed he left behind an incomplete job when their working relationship broke down.

'Got what she paid for'

Mailman said the indoor units drip because Bennett insisted they be placed close to the ceiling, despite his objections. He said the outdoor unit was only installed temporarily, as Bennett planned to do landscaping before a permanent installation.

He said his quote for the work, which took a month and a half, was $10,000 less than his competitors and that Bennett "got what she paid for."

In his reasons for decision, adjudicator Erik K. Sloane said:

"I find that his refusal to stand by his work was inexcusable."

The decision also noted that the fact it was a cash transaction was troubling.

Bennett said this experience made her realize "how stupid I really was. I thought I had done my due diligence and I thought I could trust somebody."

Mike Scott, Bennett's lawyer, said when someone is unable to pay a claim outright, the sherriff can look for assets or additional bank accounts.

"If someone who is bankrupt really has no money, you can't get blood from a stone," he said. 

Jack Knox, general manager of Halifax Heating and Residential, was subpoenaed as a witness during the dispute. He is reminding home owners that before they proceed with contracting work, to make sure to ask for and check references, and to gather multiple quotes.

"Where does it start? Does it start with the supplier, or does it start with the consumer?" he said. "Because if one can make money and the other one can save money, everybody's happy. Until there's a problem."