Tuesday, November 15, 2011

KEL law firm resigns from BBB amid homeowner complaints

Peppered with complaints by former clients, the KEL law firm has been forced to resign from the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida — the first area law firm to be ousted in the business-rating agency’s 27-year history, the local BBB chief has confirmed.

The resignation of Orlando-based KEL, formally known as Kaufman, Englett & Lynd, from bureau membership followed a jump in the number of complaints during the past year and the BBB’s determination that KEL had “failed to resolve the underlying cause(s) of a pattern of complaints,” the agency’s latest report states. The agency gives the firm an F rating — a rarity for a law firm.

Although the firm has resolved all but three of the 39 complaints filed against it during the past three years, KEL’s inability to slow the pace of the complaints — 27 in the past 12 months — moved the BBB to act in June, said Judy Pepper, the agency’s chief executive officer.

“Once a company no longer meets our standards, they are not eligible to have the BBB accreditation,” she said. “We will give those companies the opportunity to resign, or their membership will be revoked.”

According to the BBB complaints, many of the former clients accused the high-profile, widely advertised law firm of charging thousands of dollars in fees for foreclosure-defense and mortgage-modification services that were poorly executed or never provided.

“There’s no doubt I am losing my house now because of them,” said Amanda Smith-Gillaspie of DeBary, who said she paid KEL more than $3,500 last year to defend her home against foreclosure. “They dropped the ball so many times, it was ridiculous. When I wouldn’t pay them another $3,500, they dropped me. Then I started working directly with Citibank and found out KEL hadn’t filed some of the paperwork at all.”

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