Window company's practices: Illegal or just bad business?

7:02 PM, Jan 9, 2014   |    comments
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HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) -- New complaints against a Hudsonville company are raising questions about the difference between simply running a business poorly and doing it illegally.

A 13 On Your Side investigation into Windows of Michigan uncovered a number of unsatisfied customers. WZZM 13 is asking law enforcement about how they handle a case like this.

"What we'd do is look at each individual victim," says Captain Jack Dykstra with the Holland Department of Public Safety. Dykstra is talking about people like Roger Maynard who claims to be owed $1,000 for a carport never built, Or Del Blumenshine who won $2,000 in court.

"As of this date, I have not received any payment," Blumenshine told WZZM.

RELATEDWindows of Michigan manager responds to 13 On Your Side investigation

A 13 On Your Side investigation uncovered more than a dozen court claims against Joe Kooienga, the manager of Windows of Michigan. However, he told WZZM 13 he's done nothing illegal. "I can say this, I'm not a thief," says Kooienga.

WZZM 13 asked police how they tell if something is simply bad business or fraud. "Often times that's multiple victims; in this case you have that, but there's also contracts involved," says Captain Dykstra.

In order to bring criminal charges, prosecutors have to prove intent and police say once someone signs an agreement on paper, it makes that much more difficult. "Sometimes people get frustrated because law enforcement can't do anything about it," says Captain Dykstra. "It's because that civil contract has been entered into and then the civil courts have to make a judgment on that case."

According to the Better Business Bureau, Kooienga's two companies, have three dozen complaints. All Seasons Home Improvement has 21 complaints between 2005 and 2011. First Choice Windows and Sunrooms, which is the umbrella company for Windows of Michigan, has 15 complaints from 2011 to the present.

"It's very clear, they have an 'F' rating," says Captain Dykstra.

There's still hope for Blumenshine to collect his winnings in small claims court. Civil law attorney Joel Barr says one option is filing what's known as a discovery subpoena, in which a judge can require the person in debt to appear in court. "You start asking about the vehicles they drive, what do they own," says Barr. "You're really looking for any assets that can satisfy the judgment."

Kooienga told WZZM 13 that he's looking at his options and would consider selling his truck, if necessary, to make things right with his former customers.

WZZM 13 checked with the state licensing department, LARA, and found that Kooienga does have a builder's permit, but Windows of Michigan does not. State officials say any construction company is required by law to have a builder's permit. The Better Business Bureau says some of the complaints against him have been resolved, some have not.

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