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TAKING ACTION: Pool problems prompt concerns for local business, resident

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A customer said a pool contractor hasn't finished a job and in a strange twist, the situation is affecting another area business with the same name.

This story began when Kathy Albers contacted WHNT News 19 last month. She was concerned because she said she had paid Rob MacQueen of Off the Deep End in Huntsville $1900 to replace her pool liner.

When she called us, she said she had not heard from him.

The confusion thickened when we reached out to Mike Daury of Off the Deep End, only to find that business is in Ardmore, TN. It's a different business, he said, with different owners, and different licenses. We were able to verify that Off the Deep End in Ardmore is registered in Tennessee.

"I've had three or four calls since spring dealing with jobs not being completed, and them thinking it's me," said Daury. "I look them up and they're not in the customer list at all. I don't even know them."

He said he believes the Ardmore, TN business is being confused with the Huntsville business.

"You have the right to use any name you want," he said. "I'm not mad about that. What upsets me is when I get people calling and thinking it's me."

He added that he believes he has gotten some negative reviews online because of the possible mix-up.

Albers said she contacted MacQueen of the Huntsville Off the Deep End business to do the work in April. He and a crew came out in May, she said, drained the pool, and removed the lining.

"Then they left, and I did not hear anything else from them," said Albers. "And I started trying to call and I got no answer, and no answer, and no answer."

Since then, her pool has been liner-less with an accumulation of standing water and debris inside. Albers had planned a friend's wedding at her home, but had to cancel because MacQueen had not come to fix her pool in time.

"I'm kind of beyond anger. There was a lot of anger for a while," she said. "I just want to have my yard back."

Later, she said MacQueen came back and told her he was having phone issues and was ready to help fix the job he had left behind in her yard. She said she had moved on to another route to fix her yard.

"By then, I had already contracted with someone else," she said. "I told him it was too late. That he had had from April 21 until a week ago to do something about it and I had already made a down payment and a contract with someone else."

She believes the new company will be fixing her pool next week, for good.

"I hope that it is going to look beautiful once again," she said.

We called the Huntsville Off the Deep End owner, Rob MacQueen, to hear his side of the story.

He said in the phone conversation that he had fallen behind on jobs because of recent rain, and he again cited his phone issues. He sad he had ordered Albers' new liner, but she turned him away when he came back to her house.

We asked where MacQueen was licensed, and he said he had a Madison County license. WHNT News 19 was able to verify that with the county.

We checked with Huntsville's inspection department, because that is where MacQueen had performed half the work on Albers' pool, only to find he does not have a license in the city or a permit to do the repair he had promised.

Each Off the Deep End business claims it had the name first. MacQueen also acknowledged the confusion the dual names cause for some customers, and said he also gets calls directed at the other business from time to time.

Albers' attorney has sent a letter to MacQueen asking for her $1900 payment back in full. MacQueen said he had received it, and he would be able to pay her back without a problem.

Albers' attorney asked for that payment by July 24.

MacQueen has not returned our multiple additional calls for comment about his Huntsville license status. However, we found no complaints about his business filed with the Better Business Bureau. The link to his Facebook/website is inactive.

Albers tells us she lost half the summer of using her pool to learn a hard lesson: "If you're going to contract for work, do your homework," she said.

Daury is hopeful that people will pay attention to which Off the Deep End business they are hiring. He said knowing which owner you are dealing with, "would be smart. Because then if there is a problem you know who to address." Daury said if you call him, he answers the phone.

Tips for hiring a contractor

Whether you are looking to do a small job, or one that will cost you thousands of dollars, it is important to be completely sure who you are hiring.

We received these tips from the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama:

  • Ask friends, relatives and business associates for recommendations.
  • Check to find trustworthy, local contractors and remodelers.
  • Be sure to obtain written estimates from at least three contractors. The estimates should all be based on the same building specifications, quality of materials, labor and time needed to complete the project. Be certain you understand the reasons for any variations in the prices rather than automatically choosing the lowest estimate.
  •  Ask for a list of previous clients for reference and call the clients to ask about the quality of work performed. If possible, go look at the contractor's completed work.
  • Contact your BBB to determine how long the company has been in business and if any complaints have been filed against it.
  • Check with Alabama’s Home Builders Licensure Board at 800-304-0853 to be sure that the contractor is licensed and/or bonded, if required. A bond may protect you against substandard work that doesn't comply with building codes; however, it may not protect you if the contractor does not complete
    the job.
  • Ask the contractor if the company is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of an
    accident. Then call to verify the contractor's insurance coverage after obtaining the name of the carrier and agency. For a large remodeling job that involves several subcontractors and a large financial commitment, you should protect yourself from liens against your home in the event that the primary contractor doesn't pay the subcontractor or the suppliers. You can do this by adding a release-of-lien clause to the contract or by placing your payments in an escrow account until the work is completed.
  • Before you sign a final contract, be sure it specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor and that all oral promises are also included in the written contract. Be suspicious if you're asked to pay for the entire job in advance. The down payment should be no more than one-third of the total contract price.
  • Don't sign a completion certificate for the job until after it has been inspected by local building authorities and properly completed according to the contract.