Heating and air contractor takes Morgan County veteran’s money, doesn’t install unit

DEER LODGE (WATE) – A retired Air Force sergeant says he regrets answering a Facebook ad for a heating and air contractor. The contractor and his partner traveled from Oak Ridge to rural Morgan County where they were supposed to install the unit. After waiting for weeks, the retired sergeant says it still hasn’t been done.

Most heating and air contractors either have HVAC units immediately on hand, to be installed within a day or two, or they can be quickly ordered if necessary. That’s what James Kilpatrick believed when he signed the contract.

Kilpatrick wanted a heating and air unit installed outside a cabin he owns in Deer Lodge.  His grandson, Wyatt, and the little boy’s mom and dad live in this rustic home in rural Morgan County. Kilpatrick said he found contractors Kenny Martin and Steve Lawson on Facebook.

He signed an agreement to purchase a two and a half ton heating and air unit from Kenny Martin of Martin Heating and Air in Oak Ridge. The cost was $3,500, and Kilpatrick agreed to a $2,200 down payment and monthly payments for eight months to take care of the remainder.

Retired Air Forge Sgt. James Kilpatrick shows his contract to Don Dare.

“They signed a contract, came back a day or two later and said, ‘We need $500 upfront so we can go get supplies,'” said Kilpatrick.

Martin signed the contract and agreed to the $500 dollar deposit. Kilpatrick said Martin told him the unit would be set up within days alongside the cabin.

“They took off and were supposed to come back the next day. They did not. They kept making excuses,” said Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick said he received a text message from Martin saying he was going through a divorce. “I’ll have your money returned to you by no later than 5 Monday. I do apologize for the inconvenience,” read the message. Despite the promise, Kilpatrick’s refund for the air and heating unit was never made.

“It’s a matter of integrity. It’s a matter of justice. They took money from a disabled veteran,” said Kilpatrick.

A heating and cooling unit is one of the most complex systems that can be found in a home. It’s essential that the HVAC service provider you hire is well trained to deal with safety issues in heating systems – electricity, natural gas, oil, or cooling units that use toxic refrigerants.

You also want to make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded, insured and meets on-the-job experience requirements.

WATE 6 On Your Side tried to contact Kenny Martin to ask why he never returned with Kilpatrick’s deposit, but could only access a recorded message saying, “The person you are trying to reach is not accepting calls at this time.”

Lawson said on the phone he “hates what happened” to Kilpatrick and doesn’t know why Martin didn’t return the $500. Lawson said he “didn’t make a dollar” from the transaction with Kilpatrick and is “no longer working with Martin.”

“Personally, I just think they don’t want to give the money back. They’re trying to con us out of money. I wouldn’t deal with either one of these gentlemen period,” said Kilpatrick.

There are many excellent heating and air businesses throughout East Tennessee and most are licensed and insured. Their technicians are usually experts in plumbing and electricity.

Kilpatrick would like to get his money back, but isn’t optimistic.

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