A new fence can be a big home improvement expense. Robert Haag said he and his wife had to save up to replace the wood fence at the home his wife bought in 1979.
“We kind of did a patch work on it until we could save up enough money to do it,” Haag told us.
In May, Haag said he logged on to the Home Advisor website and a company called Elite Flooring Services came up as an option. He said he then called the number listed for the company.
“Since Home Advisor had done background checks and everything, I figured it was a legitimate company,” Haag said.
Haag told us he met with a contractor named Gabriel Mira Dominguez. He signed a contract but said he didn’t notice the company’s name on the contract was different than the one listed on Home Advisor. He wrote out two checks to Dominguez for $3700.
Broward County’s Delroy Aiken investigates contractor complaints. He told us those are two big red flags consumers should look out for.
“Never, ever, ever, write the check to the person’s name. It’s a business entity. Write the check to the business,” Aiken advised.
Aiken said regardless of how you connect with the contractor, make sure you verify he or she is licensed by the state or county where the work is being done. Some jobs require a county license, others a state license. For example, a contractor is required to have a state license for flooring but not for fences. However, Broward County requires a contractor to be licensed to put up a fence.
“These guys work hard for their license,” Aiken said. “When they have that license, they are very proud of it and they want to show you that 'hey, I am a legitimate person, here’s my license.'”
When we checked out Dominguez, we found he had an expired contractor’s license in Miami-Dade County. Both Broward County and the state told us they have no record that he or his company were ever issued a license. We also found out Dominguez has faced criminal charges for contracting without a license and for theft. He was ordered to pay back more than $7,000 to victims.
Haag, 75, called NBC 6 Responds even though he doubted he’d ever see the money he lost.
“At my age I can’t make it back up, it’s gone,” said Haag.
We tried reaching Dominguez by going to an address listed for him and calling several numbers once linked to him. We have not been able to reach him.
So, we contacted Home Advisor.
The company told us by email:
“We are saddened to hear when a homeowner has a negative experience with a pro in our network. Elite Flooring is no longer a member of our network and their company is not listed on our site. We are looking into the facts on this issue and reaching out to work with the homeowners. We make sure that our service professional businesses carry applicable state-level trade licensing and always encourage homeowners to check on any pertinent local licensing. For more on our screening process, please see https://www.homeadvisor.com/screening/.”
Soon after, the company reimbursed Haag the $3700 dollars he lost.