ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida is warning customers looking to build a fence to use caution before hiring Chad Hardwick, the owner of D-Fence.
Ten customers have filed complaints with the BBB since July of 2017, accusing the St. Augustine fence contractor of a variety of things including:
- Failing to start projects after receiving large deposits
- Leaving some jobs unfinished
- Providing poor workmanship
The I-TEAM has also received complaints about Chad Hardwick, who is the nephew of St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick -- the very reason why Robert Barton said he hired D-Fence.
"He (Chad Hardwick) made a point of mentioning that his uncle, Robert Hardwick, is the chief of police for the city of Saint Augustine Beach. So that kind of gave us the confidence and the credence, that okay, we should be dealing with an okay guy, and not have to do all the research up front,” Barton told the I-TEAM.
Barton said he regrets paying Chad Hardwick $1,000 as a deposit.
”He just never showed up. He keeps saying, like I said, he was gonna be here on the 13th, 'If I’m not there I’ll be there the first part of next week.' He doesn’t show up, he doesn’t call. You call him and try to find out where he’s at, he’s always busy, he’s doing another job, things falling behind," explained Barton. "It’s just one story after another, but he never shows up to do the work.”
The I-TEAM contacted Chad Hardwick about all the customer complaints that had gone unanswered and the consumer warning BBB was issuing about him and his company.
"I do admit to everything that's been done," he told us.
But Chad Hardwick blames the inability to do the jobs he was paid to do on bad employees and underbidding on projects.
"You name it, I’ve been through the ringer with the business - people stealing from me, jobs not getting done on time, just upside down stuff, on top of just trying to keep the business afloat,” he said.
"What's your message to those people who you owe money to?" we asked.
"I am extremely sorry and I have every intentions on cleaning it up and paying everyone back. I’m in the process of talking to some people that are helping out. You know, it’s just one job at a time," he said.
"So you're going to get all the customers their money back?" we asked.
”Absolutely, yeah," he said. "I had full intentions of doing their job when they did pay me, but it just didn’t work like that."
Chad Hardwick says he wants to start a payment plan with his customers. He also says investors are interested in buying his company, a claim Barton does not believe.
”He tells a very good story, very strong story, about his family and his commitment and he’s trying to make it, just a young man trying to succeed in business,” said Barton. "The last contact I had with him was a text message where he said he had an investor who was willing to buy him out but what kind of investor wants to buy a company that has so many unanswered or unsettled claims against him. He has no assets."
Three days after the I-TEAM first reported this story, Barton said Chad Hardwick paid him back his $1,000 deposit, in cash, and also gave him $225 for Barton's small claims court fees.
BBB said Chad Hardwick has not responded to any of the complaints against him, even though he has contacted the BBB in May 2018 and again in October 2018 and said both times that he wanted to provide responses.
READ BBB WARNING:
However, Chad Hardwick contacted the BBB Tuesday after learning he was the focus of a new consumer warning. The BBB said he once again told the organization he wanted to respond to the complaints. We will update this story if he follows through and does respond.
In the meantime, the BBB has given Chad Hardwick's business D-Fence an "F" rating, the lowest on BBB's scale.
BBB offers the following tips on hiring a reputable fence contractor:
- Research any business and its owners carefully before paying any money. Check the company’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org or by calling 904-721-2288.
- Check with your HOA first for any restrictions before choosing your fence. The property owner is usually responsible for adhering to deed restrictions and HOA requirements that apply to the subject property.
- Ask friends, family members, and neighbors with fences you admire to recommend a fencing contractor.
- Don’t automatically choose the first fencing contractor you find. Get at least three estimates to compare fencing contractors. The written estimate should include: the cost of the labor and materials, what the contractor is responsible for, and the length of the job. When you are comparing contractors, compare quotes based on the same specification, be sure to consider the work being done, the quality of the fencing materials, and the cost of the job. While on your property, the contractor should check out the sloping of your yard and obstructions, such as trees, that will affect the fencing.
Florida does not require fence contractors to have a license, but if a fence is being installed, the contractor may be required to get a permit from the city or county, depending on the type of fence.