JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Customers who claimed a pool contractor took hundreds of thousands of dollars without finishing the work could get some money back from a state restitution fund.
The I-TEAM, who has been following this story since receiving dozens of complaints from Jacksonville-area residents, learned Thursday that the license holder of Staycation Pools & Spas and other general contractor companies, Jordan Hidalgo, will give up his nine contracting licenses as part of an agreement with the state’s Construction Industry Licensing Board.
Hidalgo faced more than 50 complaints that had been filed with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, accusing him of abandoning a construction project and financial mismanagement or misconduct.
Hidalgo told the I-TEAM that he agreed to forfeit his licenses so that victims could get restitution from a state fund.
Customers named in the complaint can now make a claim through the Florida Homeowners Construction Recovery Fund. However, there are certain rules that need to be followed, and it is first-come, first-served.
“There’s very specific criteria that you need to meet in order to be eligible for the fund.” Said Christopher Cobb, an attorney and former chairman of the Construction Industry Licensing Board.
Cobb said affected customers will want to file their claims as soon as possible.
“In order to be eligible for the fund, you have to fill out your application. And you have it has to be a residential property, and it has to be owner-occupied, which means the owner of the property has to live there and use it as their primary residence, then the allegations need to be related to either financial mismanagement, abandonment, or fraud,” Cobb said.
According to Cobb, the maximum amount of money people can get from this fund is limited by the license and the type of license.
“It’s a $150,000 aggregate, and it’s a $15,000 claim limit,” Cobb said. “So, one homeowner would get limited to $15,000 for their claim.”
Casey Toussaint, who paid $95,000 to Staycation, is one of the affected customers the licensing board ordered restitution be paid to.
“The whole process is just really frustrating,” Toussaint said. “What is he really responsible for? Like it just seems like a slap on the wrist.”
Hidalgo has pointed to the president of the company for many of the financial and mismanagement problems, but as the license holder, he admitted he should have kept a closer eye on things.
“I think it’s a lot of [expletive.]” Toussaint said. “I think he knew exactly what he was doing. When you have people calling you repeatedly saying there is a problem with your company, and you ignore them.”
If Hidalgo decides to re-apply for a Florida contracting license in the future, he will have to pay $212,000 in fines related to these cases, as well as $2,000 in investigative costs.
He would also have to repay, in full, plus interest, the amount paid to the homeowners through the recovery fund.
“This contractor won’t work in the state anymore. I would be surprised if they do.” Cobb said. “Given the number of complaints on this license, any discipline, if he wants to reapply, he would have to come to the construction industry licensing board and explain to him to explain to them why he should be granted another license. And this is such an egregious set of circumstances, I would doubt that they would issue a license in this case.”