Worst Orlando Contractors of 2012

Worst Orlando Contractors of 2012

Air Care Solutions/Florida A/C Service and Duct Cleaning | Orlando

After hiring Air Care Solutions based on its mail flier, which advertised a $79 dryer vent and air duct cleaning, Angie’s List member Victor Young of Maitland, Fla., says the job totaled $978 for two hours of work. Young says the F-rated Orlando company told him his vents needed more cleaning than the special offered. “It was a bait and switch,” he says. “They wanted me to replace my entire ductwork for $3,000. They were pushing and trying to sell me other things the whole time.”

Nine other Angie's List members, as well as 143 consumers who complained to the BBB, allege similar shoddy work and bait-and-switch sales tactics, according to member reviews and the BBB website. Air Care Solutions, which also does business as Florida A/C Service and Duct Cleaning, has five F- or D-rated locations on the List, including several in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area. Florida A/C landed in the Penalty Box in April after not responding to a member’s complaint of being overcharged $1,500 for an A/C system.

Luke Johnson of Winter Garden, Fla., says he paid $250 for an Air Care Solutions technician to tell him a noticeable odor in his daughter’s bedroom was the result of a mice infestation in his attic. Following a two-hour inspection, Johnson says the technician used his cellphone to show him pictures of mice droppings and a bag of mouse poison, and then told him it would cost $3,000 to $4,000 to replace all of the ductwork.

Having moved into the home eight months prior, Johnson says he found it odd the home inspector didn’t mention an infestation. He decided to call a pest control company for a price quote, and says the technician found no mice in the attic. Neither did another air quality company Johnson called for a third inspection. “The thing is I believed it,” Johnson says. “I just thought he was gouging, trying to get me to do the whole house. I assumed there was a dead rat up there and that was the smell.”

After repeated phone calls to the company, Johnson says a manager offered him a $150 refund, but he’s received nothing. “How is that possible that they can do that to people?” he says. “You go around with a picture of something that doesn’t exist to try create business. It was just so slimy.”

State records show Biniamin Ram and Netanel Brumand own the companies. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Protective Solutions | Apopka, Fla.

Thomas CostaThomas Costa (Photo courtesy of Florida Department of Corrections)

Thomas P. Costa, owner of Protective Solutions, a D-rated mold testing and remediation company servicing the Orange County, Fla., area, received an 8-year prison term in February after pleading guilty to violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. However, it’s unlikely the 61-year-old Costa will spend a day in prison as he received a reverse split sentence because of a medical condition. “He’s on probation/parole with a suspended sentence type of thing, meaning he dodged the bullet,” his attorney O. Gustavo Padron says. “Anything that that guy does from now until the day he dies is under the microscope.”

In exchange for the guilty plea, court records show prosecutors dropped 43 counts of felony grand theft and fraud, but the judge ordered Costa to pay $44,532 in restitution to 29 victims, which he hadn’t paid by press time, according to the Orange County clerk’s office. Padron doubts that Costa will pay the restitution due to his skyrocketing medical bills. “Unfortunately, when a person has medical issues, your medical bills are going to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Padron says.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Division of Law Enforcement arrested Costa in February 2011. The DEP and the Florida attorney general’s office say Costa took mold samples from clients’ homes and falsely claimed to have them tested. The DEP says Costa provided fictitious lab reports to clients before offering his services to remove the mold.

Angie’s List member Charles Stein says he hired Costa to remove mold from his former Orlando-area home, but Costa’s solution of removing the drywall and painting inside the wall failed to work. “I didn’t have a good feeling about [Costa],” says Stein, who joined Angie’s List after his experience to file a D, the company’s sole review.

According to a customer service representative who answered the phone at Protective Solutions, the company is now owned by Costa’s son, Phillip, and no longer does mold testing.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation records show the license for Protective Solutions, issued under the name Phillip Thomas Costa, is for mold remediation only.

Godley’s Tree Service & Custom Landscaping | Winter Garden, Fla.

Godley's Tree ServiceBaker says his neighbor hired Godley’s, but the company cut his tree and left branches on his shed. (Photo courtesy of Randall Baker)

Angie’s List Orlando member Randall Baker says he never hired C-rated Godley’s Tree Service & Custom Landscaping to cut any of his trees, but he found 6-footlong branches cut from his tree on top of his shed after a neighbor hired them. He says he twice called the police after the workers refused to get out of his tree.

Owner Mark Godley describes Baker as a difficult neighbor, and contends his crew cut none of Baker’s branches. “The guy was lying in a pile of leaves with a camera taking pictures of my guys,” Godley says. ”We do about 2,500 to 3,000 customers a year (and) I hardly ever get any complaints. You can’t satisfy everybody.”

Three other members accused Godley of shoddy work in 2012, including reviews last summer that landed it in the Penalty Box. Godley claims to be fully licensed, but state records show he doesn’t hold a required landscape architect license. Court records also show he has felony convictions, including theft and burglary, that date back to 1991.

Pat the Plumber | Wildwood, Fla.

Pat the Plumber and owner Pat Walsh landed in the Penalty Box in April after Angie’s List member Robert Prince of Inverness says his requests to repair a leaking solar water heating system went unanswered. His D review is one of three straight D’s the company’s received since December 2011. The BBB’s website also lists 37 consumer complaints against the company.

Prince says he paid C-rated Pat the Plumber $7,500 to install the system in his home, but he’s discovered leaks twice since then. “I found him through the Yellow Pages to my everlasting regret,” he says. “I either want a refund or I want a system that works.”

The Florida attorney general confirms it’s investigating Walsh for consumer allegations of unconscionable acts or practices and unfair or deceptive acts. An AG spokesperson declined to comment further. Walsh didn’t respond to requests for comment.

- with additional reporting by Staci Giordullo and Stephanie Snay