Remodeling, landscaping and HVAC work generate most complaints in 2013

Remodeling, landscaping and HVAC work generate most complaints in 2013

Every year, Angie’s List issues its Best & Worst Contractors list, where we profile the contractors who inspire our members to write rave reviews, but also report on those that trigger consumer complaints or investigations by law enforcement, attorneys general and other agencies.

In 2013, shady service providers peddled services in a variety of trades, but most frequently victimized consumers when doing remodeling, landscaping and HVAC work. We captured the bad and the ugly during our reporting in 20 major cities across the country, including these big finds: A San Diego-area remodeler who faced trial on 42 felony charges, including theft from an elder or dependent adult; a Chicago-area siding company banned from working in the state following complaints of storm chasing; and a Tampa, Fla.-area contractor sentenced to life in prison after a jury convicted him of child molestation charges.

We also interviewed members who say they were targeted after Superstorm Sandy damaged their homes in late 2012. For example, member Dawn LaCosta says she paid A-1 American Chimney $3,150 to make a repair that turned out to be unnecessary after Sandy damaged her New Jersey home. “I’d been price-gouged,” says LaCosta, who also complained the work on her chimney later caused her house to fill with smoke. That state’s attorney general won a $7.7 million judgment against contractor Jon Kot, who operated companies under multiple names, including A-1 Chimney. Kot didn’t respond to messages seeking comment for our story.

While we didn’t uncover any new broad-reaching scams blanketing the nation, we saw similarities in many of the complaints against service providers, including chronicles of shoddy and incomplete jobs and working without the appropriate trade licenses, as well as some egregious criminal behavior. To determine the Worst Contractors, we evaluated member reviews and Penalty Box cases in all home improvement and other service categories, and consulted local court records. We interviewed alleged victims, attorneys general, district attorneys and trade licensing boards, among others. We narrowed our selections based on the severity or volume of allegations and the damage consumers say those contractors inflicted.

This year, the Worst Contractors emerged from a variety of service categories, including many that Angie’s List members report on frequently, such as roofing, landscaping and moving. We also found consumer complaints in some less common areas of service, like those against a company offering travel discounts or another building pole barns. Estate sale purveyors, limo services and pool builders also made appearances on our Worst list this year. In Tampa and Miami, we reported on one pool company that operated throughout Florida, generating some 250 complaints to the state attorney general’s office.

Besides the usual sad stories of shoddy or incomplete jobs and taking money without doing any work, we also uncovered some fairly unusual, but serious grievances, including from one homeowner who said a contractor broke into her house after she fired him and another who said his service provider moved into his summer home when he was supposed to be doing HVAC work.

If you find yourself stuck with a shoddy service provider like those profiled on our Worst Contractors list, consider filing a complaint with your attorney general or contractors board, if one exists in your state. You can also contact the Angie’s List Complaint Resolution Process team for assistance with mitigating a complaint. In cases where the contractor is bonded, you may be able to get reimbursed by the issuing agent. If you believe you need additional assistance, you can consult with a private attorney with the appropriate expertise for your situation or seek restitution in civil court.

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