CSLB Expands Investigation of Aqua Pool and Spa
77 complaints filed with CSLB as company expresses intent to complete unfinished jobs
SACRAMENTO — The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) has expanded its investigation of Aqua Pool and Spa (License #799793), of Ripon. To date, CSLB has received and is investigating 77 complaints against the company from consumers and material suppliers. On August 19, 2010, the company shut its high-profile store just off Highway 99 in Manteca. Company officer Richard Townsend told the media the company would be filing for bankruptcy.
Last week, CSLB Enforcement Chief David Fogt and others met with company officers. Those officers were instructed by CSLB to present a plan for all customers whose jobs had not been completed, or to provide those customers with a release from their contract, which would enable them to get the job finished by another contractor. The deadline for that plan was close of business on August 30, 2010. CSLB finally received contact from the company this afternoon.
"We’re encouraged that we received a call this afternoon from company officers," said Fogt. "They say it is their intent to complete all the unfinished jobs. We’re hopeful they’ll meet their obligations." While the investigation continues, CSLB will give Aqua the opportunity to take care of the customers. "What they do will help determine if this investigation is criminal, civil or administrative," added Fogt.
CSLB investigators are concerned with the release form Aqua is sending to its customers. The form is a mutual release that would free the company from any liability for not completing a job. "We’d encourage Aqua customers to get legal advice before releasing the company from any responsibility," said Fogt. "If they haven’t yet done so, Aqua consumers with unfinished jobs are encouraged to file a complaint with CSLB."
CSLB investigators are also getting indications that there may be plans to reopen the Manteca store under a new name, Vintage Pools. Two of the officers who recently disassociated from the Aqua Pool and Spa license have filed an application for a new license under Vintage Pools. CSLB has frozen that license application. "Disassociating from a license after there are consumer complaints doesn’t release anyone from their responsibility for those complaints," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "We will not issue a new license until our investigation is completed."
CSLB is also working with the California Spa and Pool Industry Education Council (SPEC), the Sacramento Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), and the northeast California Better Business Bureau (BBB) to identify how a unified plan and teamwork might be implemented to help any abandoned Aqua Pool and Spa customers.
To date, the 77 complaints received by CSLB are as follows:
|County||# of Complaints|
The fastest way to activate a complaint in CSLB’s system is to file online at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/Filing_A_Complaint/File_A_Complaint.aspx. It’s important that consumers provide CSLB investigators with the following information:
- The current stage of the project with Aqua Pool and Spa;
- A copy of the contract;
- A record of any payments made and copies of checks;
- Identify what work has been paid for, but not received; and
- Take photographs to document all work done.
Consumers should never let their project payments get ahead of the work that is performed, especially for the construction of swimming pools. California Business and Professions (B&P) Code 7159.5(a)(5) prohibits contractors from either requesting nor accepting payment before work is done or materials are delivered. B&P Code 7108 makes it a crime to divert funds from a construction project for any other purpose.
CSLB urges consumers to remember the following tips when hiring and working with a contractor, especially for the construction of a swimming pool:
- Do not make payments for work not performed or for materials not yet delivered.
- Don't pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
- Don't pay in cash.
- Verify the contractor's license online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or via CSLB’s automated phone system at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
- Ask to see the person’s identification to make sure you are dealing with the correct individual.
- Check references, and get at least three bids and a written contract before your project begins.
- Make sure your contractor obtains the necessary building permits for any project. If you are unsure of these requirements, contact your local building department.
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In fiscal year 2009-10 CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered restitution for consumers.
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