Couple still waiting for $750,000 judgment warning others about NJ contractor

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has received five consumer complaints against O'Connor Builders since January 2022.

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, November 9, 2023
Couple waiting for $750K judgement warning others about contractor
Couple still waiting for $750,000 judgement warning others about NJ contractor

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A South Jersey couple won a $750,000 default judgment against a contractor after they say he walked off the job.

In November 2020, the Henkels hired Dennis O'Connor of O'Connor Builders in New Jersey to remodel their entire home. They said the red flags popped up just one month into the job.

"He was asking for money all the time. Almost every time we saw him, 'I need another $5,000, I have to go get more lumber. I need another $10,000," recalled Dana Henkel.

They said those requests didn't match the payment schedule on the contract.

"He had us making the checks out to him personally, not to his company," said Henkel.

They said about five months in, O'Connor walked off the job after they refused to pay any more money until completion.

"We didn't even have walls yet, and we had paid out over $150,000 to him," she said.

Their home looks beautiful now after they paid a different contractor to finish the job.

The couple sued O'Connor and got a "default judgment" because he didn't show up in court. The judge awarded them $750,000, including triple damages. But two years later, they haven't received a penny.

"We're frustrated. We don't know, we don't understand, we just completely don't understand the whole system," said Henkel.

The Troubleshooters talked to Dennis O'Connor on the phone. When asked if he was going to pay the judgment to the Henkels, he said he is on SSI and disability and that they gave him a nervous breakdown.

He wouldn't let us record his voice during the conversation but did talk to us at length.

O'Connor blames supply chain issues and rising material costs due to the pandemic. He stated lumber prices went up 110%.

But the price of lumber spiked wildly before the Henkel's contract was signed.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has received five consumer complaints against O'Connor Builders since January 2022 regarding the non-fulfillment of contract and poor workmanship.

The phone number for O'Connor Builders has been disconnected and Dennis O'Connor's number now shows up as Modern Builders. Yet O'Connor claims he has no relationship with the company. He said his ex-wife started Modern Builders with her brother.

O'Connor also said he never tried to rip anybody off, but the Henkels feel otherwise.

"He should not be allowed to keep working and hurting people and taking their, their lives, their hard-earned money," she said. "This man needs to be stopped."

The Henkels' attorney said they haven't been able to get that judgment money because O'Connor has nothing under his name anymore.

Another consumer tip is to ask for a contractor's insurance information and state identification badge, which most are required to have under New Jersey's Contractor Registration Act.

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