Charleston area's best and worst contractors of 2008
When A-Z Tree Service removed five large pine trees for Charles Barrett of Charleston, Barrett was especially thankful his shrubbery was left unharmed. "Sonny [Nguyen, the owner] is a class act all the way," Barrett says. "I was amazed with his knowledge and skill." Nguyen says he was just doing his job. "We complete the job just like our name says, A-Z," he says.
"I listen to our customers, what they liked and what we could have done better." That satisfaction comes across in the "A"-rated Angie's List reports on the crew, who also takes time out of their busy schedules to donate to the church, the elderly and those with little or no income. They've also been commended for rescuing a baby rabbit that was living in a tree they removed.
Atlantic Air, operated by Ed Pero, closed its doors suddenly in September, leaving a string of confused customers and prompting an investigation by the state contracting board. The situation brought to light Pero's status as a registered sex offender in New York and problems in other states, such as Massachusetts, where the attorney general's office confirms that he is banned from doing business for bait-and-switch tactics and not completing work.
John, an Angie's List member who didn't want to use his last name, hired Atlantic Air to clean his crawl space and replace insulation. A few days later, he heard they'd gone out of business and then found the job wasn't finished. "I don't know who's going to be ensuring the warranty on their work now," he says.
Jim Knight, director of communications for the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, says Pero was required to disclose his criminal and civil records on his contractor's license application and that the DLLR was looking into whether he did this but had not concluded the investigation by press time. "If he has indeed lied, he would be issued a cease-and-desist order preventing him from ever doing business in South Carolina," Knight says. Atlantic Air's phone number was disconnected.
Lawns by Design
Lawns by Design, a North Charleston landscaping company owned by Kenzie Cook, landed on the state Division of Consumer Affairs "Buyer Beware" list in 2008 after allegedly ignoring more than 30 complaints in the last two years. "Most of the complaints were for poor service or not completing work," says Alice Brooks, the South Carolina Division of Consumer Affairs spokeswoman.
Carol Craig hired the company for a $5,000 landscaping job. She says they delayed completing the work until she was out of the country, and she found a mess when she returned. "It was horrible," she says. "They chopped into the sprinkler line and the ground won't drain. It's a mess." Craig says she filed suit after Cook stopped taking her calls. The Dorchester County Clerk's Office confirmed Craig was awarded $6,080 in default judgment in October when the company failed to show. Cook didn't return our calls.