Worst San Diego Contractors of 2012

Worst San Diego Contractors of 2012

Custom Gate Systems | Escondido, Calif.

Carlsbad, Calif., Angie's List member James Till says when Custom Gate Systems finally installed the new gates on his home after an eight-month delay, the experience left him angry and frustrated, and he joined Angie’s List as a result.

“The installer wasn’t professional enough to complete the job to our satisfaction,” he says, noting the new gates cost more than $12,000. “Control boxes were mounted without thought to aesthetics, wires exposed, gates dragged, remotes only sometimes worked, sensors intermittently worked, touch-up paint sprayed all over our driveway, the cement for the posts didn’t blend into the existing concrete, there were electrical shorts — you name it, it happened.”

Till’s F review is one of five straight F’s that Custom Gate’s received since its first review in June 2010. The F-rated company, which doesn’t hold the required state contractor’s license, also does business as Custom Gate Crafters. The BBB gives Custom Gate an F rating, based on 27 complaints.

Angie’s List member Marsa Merkle of Carlsbad did a quick Google search before hiring Custom Gate to manufacture and install a gate 
for her driveway. She says company owner Howard Allen demanded 
50 percent of the $3,750 job to begin work, which is illegal in California. According to state law, the down payment for any home improvement project cannot exceed $1,000 or 10 percent of the project price, whichever is less. “At the time, I didn’t know it was illegal. But he went directly to the bank and cashed [my check],” she says, adding that she joined Angie’s List after the experience.

The company delayed the start of the project, and then appeared incompetent during the installation, she says. “The gate has never worked properly and they didn’t put enough concrete in the ground, so it’s leaning to the right,” Merkle says. “This company is terrible.” Other members complained that the company took money but never started work and didn’t respond to requests for service.

San Diego County court records show two civil judgments against Allen and Custom Gate Systems, totaling $5,500. Business phone numbers for Custom Gate Systems and Custom Gate Crafters are disconnected, and Allen didn’t return messages left at his home.

Natural Energy | Escondido, Calif.

Lakeside, Calif., Angie's List member Tamara McCart says she found Natural Energy at a home show, and paid them $15,000 to install solar panels on her home. Although they installed the panels, she says they delayed the job for several months. “The work crew wasn’t helpful, unable to answer questions and rude,” says McCart, who filed an F review in July. When she took her concerns to company owner Ted Mount, she says: “He did not apologize — he yelled at me and told me I needed to work around their schedule.”

McCart’s is one of six straight F reviews that Natural Energy’s received, including one Penalty Box case, with most members complaining of shoddy work and poor customer service. The company’s website also claims it’s properly licensed to work in California, Nevada and Arizona, but its only valid license is in California, according to state records. San Diego County court records show six civil judgments against Mount and Natural Energy, totaling $10,489.

Mount responded to Angie’s List Magazine in an email: “I sincerely apologize for the delays. To correct the issue, I have hired a previous service manager who has several years experience to ensure that this will no longer be an issue.”

Arkidus Home Protection | Miami, Fla.

After reading Arkidus’ good reviews on Angie’s List last April, Carlsbad member Louise Stiles switched home warranty companies, and paid them $600 for one year. But they misspelled her name and after calling numerous times to fix it, Stiles demanded a refund. “I thought, dear Lord, if they can’t correct a name, how can they correct any problems?” she says.

Her F review is one of 50 F’s and 5 D’s the company’s received since May. Members allege the D-rated Arkidus, which had no F reviews before April, failed to provide promised services, didn’t respond to calls and emails and never provided promised refunds. The company, which serviced clients nationwide, also landed in the Penalty Box 23 times in 2012.

In an email, Arkidus’ owner Reinaldo “Ray” Berges says the company is no longer in business, but he’ll resolve any issues with clients. The Florida Department of Financial Services confirmed it’s investigating Arkidus, and it issued a consumer advisory in August asking consumers to contact them.


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