JACKSONVILLE, Fl – Several homeowners are hoping the I-TEAM can help them get their money back from a local pool company after one paid for work that was never started, and another family alleges a shoddy job.
The company, Pools N Spas of Central Florida, now operates under the name of Strong Inc, which is the name that is now written in over a crossed-out name on contracts. A spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau, which has given the company an “F” rating, said the complaints against the company are piling up.
Jacksonville Beach resident Lindsay Koek said she was told she would have to wait 12 to 16 weeks for her pool to be built by Strong, Inc
“I was very angry, and I really thought we could come to some agreement at some point,” Koek said.
On June 26, 2017, Koek said she turned over a $3,700 deposit check to Strong, Inc, 10% of a $37,000 quote. Koek said that two months later, with little communication from the company, she became suspicious.
“I called the city of Jacksonville Beach, and they had no record of a permit ever being pulled,” Koek said. “So when I confronted him about that, he said we were in permitting with him, not with the city, and I asked him to explain that, and he basically said we are done for now and never returned our calls."
Koek said, in turn, she and her husband filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, claiming she paid Strong, Inc the $3,700 deposit on June 26th of last year. They allege nothing had been done and the permits hadn’t been pulled with the city of Jacksonville Beach at the time.
Koek said she worked with Strong, Inc salesman Frank Messina, who initially agreed to meet with the I-TEAM, but then canceled. Before he did, Messina sent us pictures of a pool permit application he said he submitted to Jacksonville Beach, dated on June 26th.
News4Jax checked with Jacksonville Beach’s building inspection division and learned the city didn’t receive the pool permit until August 29th. Messina told the I-TEAM by phone that he blamed the delay on obtaining a topographical survey for the backyard, which is the contractor’s responsibility. That survey was completed July 18th, according to the Koeks.
Florida law requires contractors who receive 10 percent or more as a deposit to apply for permits to do the work within 30 days after the payment is made.
“Technically, they breached the contract 30 days after we gave him the 10 percent,” Koek said. “He had 30 days to pull a permit and he never did.”
Koek hired another company to install her pool, but she still hasn’t received her $3,700 deposit back from Frank Messina, which she feels like she’s owed.
“If he’s doing it to us, who knows how many other people he could do it to,” said Koek.
“I think the state of Florida needs to hold them accountable with their licensing,” said another customer, Phillip Jones. “So we have filed complaints with the state of Florida against this pool builder, and we're waiting for their response."
Phillip and Tara Jones entered into a $40,000 contract with Strong, Inc last year to build their backyard pool. They say $2,000 of that was for a wall that they say Messina insisted that they build.
The couple was provided with an artist’s rendering of what the final project would look like. Jones said he told the company he didn’t want the wall, but claims Strong, Inc insisted, and built it anyway. Below is the rendering, and a photo of the final result:
“I think that they were selling us that wall to make more money, and they put in a really cheap paver wall,” Jones said.
The Jones family had the wall removed because their landscaper told them it wasn’t needed.
“They took regular pavers that you can buy from Home Depot or Lowes or someplace like that,” said Robert Meeks of R & B Landscaping. “They were about 18 inches off the pool deck and then just had the dirt back behind the wall, which basically was causing a problem more than a remedy.”
The Jones family filed a report with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, saying they want their money back for the wall and damage to their irrigation lanes that they say occurred during the pool’s installation by Strong, Inc
“They caused the problem, they created an issue for us, and they put their hands up and said ‘sorry,’” said Jones. “Actually they didn’t even say sorry, they just said ‘it’s not our fault.’”
Strong, Inc CEO James Eden told me, in his company’s defense, the Jones family’s contract states that Strong, Inc is not liable for any damage to the irrigation.
Before this story aired, Eden emailed the Jones family offering to refund $2,000 for that wall if the family agreed to rescind their complaint with the BBB, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the I-TEAM. The Jones family didn’t take Eden up on that offer.
As for the Koek family, Eden says he’s only willing to give them half of their money back because there was no completion date on the contract, and he said the family violated it by hiring another company. A spokesman for the BBB said it’s important that an agreed-upon completion date is written into a contract before you sign it.