CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When you have a big home improvement project, do you do it yourself or go looking for someone to hire? Many hire it out, but how do you know you’re getting a qualified “pro”?
HomeAdvisor is a company that says they’ll research licensed professionals and connect you up with a pro. But that’s far from the truth, says one Union County family. They say their home renovation is a disaster and they decided to Get McGinty to warn you and help make it right.
Geoff and Julie Vickers wanted to add living space to their home to care for Geoff Vickers' dad who was dying from brain cancer. The task of finding a contractor seemed daunting, so they used “HomeAdvisor”.
"The things I had read on HomeAdvisor’s site were that they had backgrounded checked pros in our area that were experienced,” Geoff Vickers said.
HomeAdvisor even makes these claims in their ads.
The Vickers trusted HomeAdvisor to research the background of the person recommended. That person was Kenneth Bell of KB Holdings. Bell is a licensed contractor in North Carolina. But what HomeAdvisor missed in their background check, is something Consumer Investigator Bill McGinty found. McGinty and Vickers found in a simple Google search that Bell is a convicted felon.
“The entire time he was on our job, during the time we met him through HomeAdvisor, he was on supervised probation,” Geoff Vickers said.
"You would have liked to have known that?” McGinty asked.
Geoff Vickers replied, “To say the least.”
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Bell pled guilty to federal drug charges, and in January of 2014 was sentenced to 31 months in prison and two years supervised release. He applied for a contractor’s license in North Carolina in July 2016. He received it two months later, just 2 ½ years after being sent to federal prison.
NBC Charlotte requested a copy of the application for his contractor’s license, and on page five, question 13 Bell answered “no” to the question “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” In fact, that contractor’s license was renewed in both 2017 and 2018 and Bell continued to check the “no” box when asked about a felony conviction.
“All these things make me very angry, very distrustful and bitter,” Geoff Vickers said.
The Vickers say Bell, who state records show runs his business out of a multi-million dollar home on Lake Norman, botched the renovation and abandoned the job. Bell’s lawyer told McGinty that Bell didn’t want to talk to him about anything, especially his criminal record.
Now back to HomeAdvisor and their claims that they check out the “pro’s” they recommend.
As it turns out, the Vickers aren’t the only ones raising this concern of “background checks”. The city of San Francisco filed suit against HomeAdvisor saying that “HomeAdvisor’s advertisements are false and misleading…” and that they “…deceive consumers…” The suit further alleges “HomeAdvisor performs no background checks at all on the employees”…”who will be coming into a consumer’s home”.
HomeAdvisor didn’t want to do an interview with NBC Charlotte, but emailed McGinty this response writing: “We were sorry to hear about this homeowner’s experience and are working closely with this customer to resolve the issue to their satisfaction. The service provider in question was removed from our network over a year ago, and the business has since been permanently banned from our platform."
As for Bell’s contractor license in North Carolina, NBC Charlotte questioned why it’s still active, when it’s obvious, based on state records, he misrepresented himself on the initial application and two subsequent renewals. We were told “it’s under investigation, which could take 3-6 months”, all the while his license will remain active.
Geoff Vickers said he's angry at HomeAdvisor. "And I am angry at the system that doesn’t have procedures and policies in place to protect homeowners like us.”
So where does it stand? The Vickers say they’re out an estimated $200,000 over the course of this project and litigation back and forth with Bell. And remember the reason for this project to begin with Geoff Vicker’s dad passed away from his cancer in the middle of this. They’re angry, and frustrated, but at the moment, all they can do is warn others.
The Vickers say that HomeAdvisor is negotiating with their lawyer to try to resolve this case. Future updates pending.