Couple loses $19,000 to pool company

What to look for when choosing one company

A local couple says they lost thousands of dollars trying to build a swimming pool.

A hole with wood framing is as close to a pool as Ed and Tink Bayton got, even though they said they paid more than $19,000.

"I wanted the pool built, (and) my wife was eager to have it done," Ed Bayton said.

"That was what they wanted, so that's what I gave them."

They were doing business with Family Pool Spa and Billiard Center in Altamonte Springs, according to Ed Bayton. The price of the pool would be $38,000, according to the contract.

The company wanted $19,000 up front.

Bayton said he paid the company $19,000 using his credit card.

"I've thought about it on many occasions," Bayton said. "I don't know why I did it.

I'm old enough to know not to do something like that,"

When the company did the excavation, it realized that the septic tank was too close, so it charged another $3,100, a change order fee to fill in the hole and relocate it.

"That's when I was convinced, 'OK, there’s a problem here,'" Bayton said.

Soon, the company stopped showing up and stopped responding to calls, according to Bayton.

"They just took the money and ran," he said.

Consumers can dispute a claim on a credit card if there is a problem with a merchant, but Bayton's situation was unique.

He said he used his Costco American Express card.

The pool situation happened just as Costco and American Express severed ties.

‘Horrible' experience

Audrey McLaughlin thought she did her homework when she hired the same company.

"I didn't want to be one of them victims of them horror stories, and turns out I am," McLaughlin said.

She got her swimming pool, but she said the summer kitchen that her contract promised never came.

She also said the final inspection for her pool failed and the company left an open permit on her property, which caused other problems.

"I had contacted a financial institution that said as long as I have an open permit, they would not refinance my mortgage," McLaughlin said.

The horror stories don’t surprise Rob Wasson of Masterpiece Pool and Spa.

"It’s unfortunate, but it doesn't surprise me," he said.

Wasson has been in the pool business for 40 years.

His company gets calls once a week from customers asking if the company can finish a pool that another company started, Wasson said.

Wasson said there are several things for which consumers should to be on the lookout.

Municipalities require a license and insurance to pull a construction permit, so if a contractor asks you to pull your own, that's a red flag.

"You can almost bet money that they don’t have a license," Wasson said.

To check a contractor’s license, go to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website.

For payment, Wasson said most reputable companies will charge a 10 percent deposit.

Then, he said, payments should be evenly distributed.
"You want to have a schedule of payments and you want to make these payments after the phases of construction are done," he said.

News 6 spoke with Patrick Flanagan, the former owner of H20Industries, the parent company of Family Pool Spa and Billiards in Altamonte Springs.

The company has been dissolved, according to Flanagan, but he said he is is trying to help as many customers as possible.

News 6 is also getting results for McLaughlin by working with the county to get the permit on her property closed out.

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