Company Improves Safeguards After Families Lose Thousands

NBC 6's Alina Machado reports.

(Published Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017)

Finding a reliable and licensed contractor isn’t always easy. It’s a big reason why some consumers, like Robert Desisto, look to companies to help them find qualified professionals.

The Vietnam veteran wanted to build an addition to his house and came across a commercial for HomeAdvisor. The company’s promise to connect consumers with professionals who were pre-screened gave Desisto peace of mind.

“It says they do a background check,” Desisto said.

It’s the same reason why Lilly Krause says she used the site to find a contractor to remodel two of her bathrooms.

“All the contractors are supposed to be vetted,” Krause said. “Felt very good about using them.”

Both Krause and Desisto ended up connecting with Daniel Darby and signed contracts with him to do work in their homes. Desisto paid Darby close to $3,000 before he disappeared.

“He was supposed to get all the permits,” Desisto said, adding Darby never pulled a permit or did any work at his house.

Krause wrote several checks to Darby – totally more than $8300 – for work she says was poorly done and never finished.

“It has been horrible,” she said. “I work hard for my money.”

Both say they contacted HomeAdvisor for help.

“They said that they were sorry but he was kicked off of their website and I could reach out to Better Business Bureau and this person and that person and I can make complaints against him and hopefully somebody could help me do something,” Krause said she was told by the company. “Pretty much that was it.”

On the company website, HomeAdvisor says they “…make sure that our service professionals carry any required state-level trade licensing for the services for which we match them to consumers”, in addition to conducting civil and criminal records searches. NBC 6 Responds found the State of Florida revoked Darby’s contractor license in 2016, after investigating several complaints filed against him. Yet he was still part of the HomeAdvisor network.

NBC 6 tried to reach Darby to share Desisto and Krause’s concerns, but was unable to find him. Businesses registered to Darby came back to mailboxes. A man living at an address Darby was once associated with in Naples told NBC 6 we weren’t the only ones trying to talk to Darby.

“Everyone else has been looking for him for the whole 5, 6 years I’ve lived here,” the man said.

HomeAdvisor told NBC 6 one of the companies associated with Darby – TD Construction Management – was part of their network for a short period of time. The company enrolled on January 27, 2017, they stopped sending them customers February 6, 2017, and they were terminated March 17, 2017. HomeAdvisor says they were unable to reach the company to find a resolution.

After NBC 6 Responds reached out, the company did its own internal investigation and explained that “…Mr. Darby provided an invalid license that mistakenly got through” their screening. The company says as a result, they “…have created further safeguards internally around license verification” adding that “HomeAdvisor takes the integrity of our service professional network very seriously.”

Desisto and Krause say HomeAdvisor made things right with them and reimbursed them thousands of dollars for their losses. Both wish they would have taken the time to check state records to make sure Darby was properly licensed.

You can check to see if a contractor is licensed by the State of Florida by going to the Licensee Search website.

You should also check with the county where you reside to see if they have any additional licensing requirements.