Customers question why complaints against pool company years to investigate

Updated: Apr. 8, 2019 at 5:54 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Matthews pool company accused of abandoning projects and leaving their customers out tens of thousands of dollars is under investigation by state regulators. But records obtained by WBTV show complaints against Charlotte Fiberglass Pools have existed for several years. The only case that has been completed was dismissed by the North Carolina Licensing Board of General Contractors with no punitive action against the company.

WBTV spoke with one property owner who contracted with Charlotte Fiberglass Pools who is at the center of a complaint from 2017.

“Pretty much from the time they put the shovel in the ground with no permit, it went bad,” Karen Ballesteros said.

At the time Ballesteros had hired Charlotte Fiberglass Pools, the company was using the name The Great Backyard Place. The company’s license was under a third name, Bananafish LLC.

On the day the company was set to deliver the pool shell Ballesteros says she called Union County Code Enforcement to double check they had a permit.

“They said they did not have a permit to dig. They had only applied for one,” Ballesteros said.

Union County code filed a complaint against Bananafish, LLC with the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. The Licensing Board is responsible for granting licenses and investigating complaints against companies.

In the complaint, Charlotte Fiberglass was also accused of installing the pool the pool in a wastewater repair area. Ballesteros says the workers also damaged her septic tank lines and had to negotiate with the company about who should cover the repair costs.

“It was a nightmare. It was absolutely ridiculous,” Ballesteros said.

Even though the complaint was filed in April 2017 licensing board records provided to WBTV show the complaint has still not been heard by the board.

In total Union County Code Enforcement has filed three complaints between 2016 and 2018, detailing 11 separate cases where, they claim, Charlotte Fiberglass Pools didn’t follow code.

The latest complaints from 2018 are still under investigation but records from the 2016 case show the board dismissed the complaints with no punishment. The complaint alleged Charlotte Fiberglass did not request final inspections on three separate properties it obtained permits for.

WBTV started searching whether this trend occurred in other counties. In Mecklenburg County we found Charlotte Fiberglass obtained 133 permits since 2014. Only 19 received final inspections. Some of those inspections occurred more than a year after the permit was obtained.

84 permits expired with no record of what happened. Several of the property owners WBTV contacted said they assumed the pool was completed and a final inspection had been done.

“We are not here to say this is a bad contractor, this is a good contractor,” Mecklenburg County Director of Code Ebenezer Gujjarlapudi told WBTV.

“Anybody that is properly meets the criteria by the state we are obligated to issue them a permit if they meet qualifications.”

WBTV asked Gujjarlapudi who his office did not follow up on expired permits from the contractor. Gujjarlapudi said it s the contractors responsibility to request final inspections. He says is office does not try to insert itself in the relationship between the customer and contractor, where any number of reasons could lead to an expired permit.

“That’s the responsibility of the contractor to do that. Maybe something we could look at in the future to see what we do in our process to do those,” Gujjarlapudi said.

“But most often than that we have a pretty god track record of contractors finishing the job.”

While Mecklenburg code enforcement never filed complaints with the licensing board Gujjarlapudi said his often directors customers to make those complaints on their own.

Gujjarlapudi says their office tracks failure rates of contractors and customers with questions about contractors or how the process works can call code enforcement at 980-314-CODE.

An employee for the licensing board said their director was on medical leave and they was unable to answer our questions about their investigations into Charlotte Fiberglass Pools.

Ballesteros and other Charlotte Fiberglass customers say they can’t believe the company was still operating.

“It shouldn’t have been. It should have been stopped,” Ballesteros said.

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