'Biggest regret of my life': Florida homeowner frustrated over unfinished pool
MELBOURNE, Fla. - Steven Hobbs always wanted a pool. He saved for years, and hired Charles Black with Legacy Pools to build it, paying a $60,000 down payment.
"Legacy Pools designed the pool of our dreams," said Hobbs. "It was everything we wanted."
He remembers watching the builders start digging a hole in the backyard.
"I was like a kid in a candy store, I was so excited about it," he said.
But, Hobbs says, problems with Legacy Pools’ construction at his home in Melbourne, Florida started almost immediately.
He took photos showing leaking water, holes in the fence, a bad sun shelf, cracks, debris, and concrete that was loose and brittle. He said a few weeks into the project, crews stopped showing up altogether and Black, the owner of Legacy Pools, eventually stopped answering his calls.
Finally, after more than 100 days since anyone showed up to work on his pool construction, Hobbs sent Legacy Pools a termination letter to end his contract, he said.
"I look at that pool now and try to be excited about it and try to be happy about it," said Hobbs, "but I look at it now and think about the regrets. It’s the biggest regret of my entire life."
It appears that dozens of other homeowners have the same complaints against Legacy Pools and its owners. Several people claim they have lost tens of thousands of dollars and have filed lawsuits against the company.
Attorney Blake Stewart is representing dozens of those homeowners.
"Our goal is to make as many Legacy Pools clients as whole as possible. It’s most likely impossible to recover all of the money," said Stewart.
FOX 35 looked at online records and found several complaints filed against Charles Black, not just in Florida, but also in Virginia, for alleged misconduct involving construction projects there.
Stewart's law firm told FOX 35 that it has "definitive information that Black is the same person who ran and/or qualified several construction companies that lost their licenses in Virginia for fraud and civil conspiracy under similar circumstances to their current scheme."
Court records show between 2006 and 2018, Virginia ordered Black to pay over $100,000 to customers for incomplete work. He was also fined for "improper of dishonest conduct."
In 2012, the Virginia Board of Regulation for Contractors said Black lied on his construction application, and said he "lacks the character necessary to operate a licensed contracting business."
So, how was he able to get a business license in Florida, despite his legal troubles in Virginia?
FOX 35 News reached out to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), the agency that's responsible for granting or revoking a business' license, for comment. A spokesperson for the agency declined FOX 35's request for an interview, but said in a statement that the agency conducts background checks.
"To be candid, the system is not perfect," said Elizabeth McMurray, the executive director for the Florida Swimming Pool Association. "There’s always a delay as people are given due process when they’re being pursued for these matters, and the consumer does bear the brunt of that."
She said the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has thousands of license applications to sift through.
In a statement to FOX 35 released via an attorney, Legacy Pools said: "There will be a point when Legacy Pools will share its side of the story, but at this time we are focusing on reorganizing the company and finishing pools for existing customers."
Hobbs, meanwhile, is still looking for justice.
"I don’t trust anybody anymore," he said.
If you're in the market for a contractor, the Florida Swimming Pool Association suggests you should check the company's license online, ask for references, look up reviews, and check the Better Business Bureau.
Legacy Pools has an "F" rating with the BBB.
But if you don’t catch that, McMurray suggests people file a complaint with the DBPR.
"Don’t wait," she said.
Once you do file a complaint, you’re eligible for the State Recovery Fund, a pool of money meant to pay back victims of misconduct by licensed construction workers.
That process can be lengthy, which is why you should start as soon as possible. Right now, the Florida Swimming Pool Association is working to raise the amount of money victims can be paid out.