Every year, thousands of people turn to the Better Business Bureau to find reputable contractors, but one homeowner claims they did just the opposite.
Gerry Klein says not only did the BBB recommend a contractor who never finished the job, she says the agency offered to try and fix the problem through mediation which cost her more money.
Klein reached out to News 5 Investigates after the contractor failed to make repairs and mediation was unsuccessful.
Klein’s troubles began after hiring Bob Pendergast, owner of The Home Improvement Center, to install new windows and doors.
“I could feel air blowing in,” she said. “They (workers) cracked the sheet rock here when they pulled off the trim. They never replaced the trim.”
Klein paid a $5,000 deposit and another $9,000 when workers showed up for the job.
“In January, we had a cold spell and I realized the house was extremely cold,” she said. “I put paper towels at the top of the doors to stop the air from coming in.”
Klein also showed us where the doors leak when it rains.
Lead investigative reporter Eric Ross asked, “Who did Mr. Pendergast blame for the problems you were having?”
“He blamed the window manufacturer, Sunrise Windows,” Klein said.
Ross responded, “What did Sunrise Windows say?”
“They told me it was the installer,” Klein replied.
News 5 Investigates decided to get an unbiased opinion.
“You can see they (workers) left the trim off,” Mike Messina, owner of The Window Store said. “They didn’t clean up the caulking line, they tore the sheet rock to begin with and the door is not properly aligned.”
Messina also said The Home Improvement Center improperly sealed the outside edges of the doors and windows.
“They used a silicon base and you never want to use that because it won’t adhere to the paint,” Messina said. “You can see several spots where the caulking has separated from the siding. I don’t believe the windows are defective. I believe the installation was done improperly.”
After inspecting the home, he offered Klein some advice.
“I tell every customer to find a reputable company with the Better Business Bureau,” he said.
Klein replied, “He has an A+ rating.”
“Well I don’t know how he (Pendergast) has that,” Messina replied.
Despite two negative reviews and two negative complaints in the last two years, the Better Business Bureau gave Pendergast’s business an “A+” rating.
It’s important to point out that if you go check out the BBB’s web site today, that “A+” rating has been removed. The BBB now lists his business as “closed”.
News 5 Investigates sat down with Catherine McNaughton, the Vice President of Development and Operations of the BBB of Southern Colorado.
Lead investigative reporter Eric Ross asked, “The Home Improvement Center according to your own records had an A+ rating with the BBB since May 2014. Yet, the company had two negative reviews this year alone. How did the company manage to keep an A+ rating?”
“There are 16 different factors that go into that rating and one of them is complaints,” McNaughton explained.
A few other factors that impact the rating of a business include the size of the business, when it was founded and whether the company made “good faith” efforts to resolve outstanding complaints.
McNaughton adds that negative reviews left on the BBB’s web site do not impact a score, only complaints are counted.
She also says they do not calculate grades based on reviews left on other online outlets like Yelp or Google.
Klein did file a complaint with the BBB about Mr. Pendergast and The Home Improvement Center.
Unfortunately, her complaint did not generate any action, so the BBB offered her an alternative.
“The BBB offered mediation,” Klein said. “I had to pay $100 and Bob Pendergast had to pay $100.”
The BBB did schedule mediation, but after a few conversations, the mediation stopped.
A dispute resolution specialist acknowledged in an email to Klein that he as documented her “dissatisfaction” with mediation and “regrets being unable to reach a desired resolution”.
The BBB then closed the case.
Ross asked Klein, “To say the least, you were not satisfied with the BBB’s response?”
“Not at all because they didn’t enforce the mediation that we went through,” Klein said.
McNaughton can’t comment on specific cases, but we did ask her what the BBB guarantees when a consumer pays $100 for mediation.
“We don’t guarantee anything,” McNaughton said. “The outcome of mediation is dependent on the business and consumer working together.”
Ross asked, “So if I’m a bad contractor and initially agree to mediation but then decide 20 minutes into it that I’m done, what happens?”
“You can walk out,” McNaughton said. “You definitely can. There’s nothing that requires you to stay here.”
The BBB of Southern Colorado says it handles about 15 mediation cases a month, or 175 a year.
We asked how many of those cases end with successful mediation.
“That’s a good question,” McNaughton said. “I would say in my experience with mediation, nobody walks out happy. You walk out of mediation with something that you can live with.”
McNaughton says mediation is one of the last options to try and get a problem resolved. If mediation fails, the homeowner can try arbitration or file a lawsuit in small claims court.
McNaughton reiterates the best way to avoid these types of situations is to prevent them from happening the first place.
“Before you write someone a check, I would do your research,” she said. “The Better Business Bureau is always a great option to make sure the business is legit. We encourage you to find three different contractors before making a decision.”
News 5 Investigates also discovered The Home Improvement Center was registered with Home Advisor—a website that puts homeowners in contact with reputable contractors.
Just hours after reaching out to Home Advisor for comment, a spokesperson said The Home Improvement Center was removed from its web site.
In a statement, Home Advisor said:
“Mr. Pendergast had a stroke and was unable to work after that. He canceled his HomeAdvisor membership at the end of April, but his profile page wasn’t immediately pulled down. We went ahead and removed it today. We had two complaints that occurred around the time Mr Pendergast told us he had the stroke, but he communicated to us that he was getting another professional to finish the jobs for the homeowners. He had a great ratings and reviews up to that point with an average of 4.27.”
We were able to reach Pendergast by phone for comment. He said he is out of business and is filing for bankruptcy. He apologized for Klein’s situation, but places blame on the window manufacturer.
A spokesperson for Sunrise Windows told News 5 via email that they will send a representative out to assess the matter.
We’ll be sure to let you know what happens.
To check out a contractor’s license, visit the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
In addition to filing a complaint against a contractor with the Better Business Bureau, you should also file a complaint with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
For more information on the dispute resolution process with the Better Business Bureau, click here.
It’s important to note that Klein’s situation with Mr. Pendergast began after hiring him in 2012.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Pendergast’s business was NOT accredited by the BBB until two years after Klein hired him.
Pendgerast maintained an A+ in 2014 and kept it until May 2017.
According to BBB records, Pendergast’s score was changed from an A+ to an A on May 9, 2017.
The BBB provided News 5 with the following timeline:
June 25, 2012: Consumer signed sales agreement with The Home Improvement Center, owned and operated by Bob Pendergast.
January 22, 2013: BBB created a file on The Home Improvement Center. When a profile is created, an immediate score is not given to a business. The BBB says a business will often have an “NR” rating until more information about the company is given to the BBB. It’s also important to note that just because a business has a profile with the BBB, it may NOT be a BBB accredited business.
June 1, 2014: The Home Improvement Center became an accredited BBB Business.
December 2015: Consumer filed a BBB complaint against The Home Improvement Center
December 2015 – May 9, 2017: Consumer and The Home Improvement Center entered into an ongoing alternative dispute resolution process which eventually included mediation.
May 9, 2017: Rating changed from A+ to A rating
May 24, 2017: “A” rating to “Out of Business”. When a company goes out of business, they immediately lose their BBB rating.