Consumer Justice Uncovers What’s Not Guaranteed By Home Service Websites

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NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – You can hire a pro for just about any job around the house, thanks to websites like Thumbtack, Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

But a North Texas man says one of those sites gave him a false sense of security, and now he’s out close to $4,000.

When Robert Rain’s pool started leaking, he used Thumbtack to hire Pro Tex Poolcare.

“And they came out and they also shake your hand and very friendly, just a good ol’ boy,” said Rain. “And I felt very confident that I had found my ‘go to’ guy.”

Rain says he paid Brad Hathcoat for a leak detection test that was not performed, and a leaky pump that was not fixed. After three appointments and $3,700 in payments, Rain says another plumber told him the leak was easy to spot and the work he’d paid for was unnecessary.

Cristin Severance talks to Brad Hathcoat (CBS11)

Cristin Severance talks to Brad Hathcoat (CBS11)

Consumer Justice knows Hathcoat well.

Last summer we reported how his company, Rockin’ H Poolcare, owed at least two families thousands of dollars for shoddy or unfinished work. One of them reported him to Thumbtack, which suspended Hathcoat’s account.

Rain said when he reported Hathcoat to the site months later, he was told the same thing.

“The Hathcoats have been on that website, getting work under two different names and have now been booted twice,” said Rain. “You know, that’s a red flag and after a while Thumbtack should be responsible for that.”

Getting onto Thumbtack may be easier than you think. A Consumer Justice producer created a pool care company profile on the website using her real information. Her bio states, “I know nothing about pools.” She received hundreds of emails about potential jobs.

Consumer Justice tried for weeks to talk to someone with Thumbtack. The company’s spokesperson, Marideth Post, refused to call back and would only email generic statements.

Post said Thumbtack’s approach to safety is “holistic” and that professionals are “screened,” but would not elaborate on either statement. In one email she said Hathcoat “used a different name and credentials to create a new account.”

Still, Rain thought he would be covered under Thumbtack’s new million-dollar guarantee. The company’s website promises “$1 million property protection on over a thousand local services.”

Rain says he called the company for two weeks, only to learn he was out of luck. “He (Thumbtack employee) said ‘actually you’re not covered under the guarantee,’ and I said ‘ explain that because I’ve experienced a loss.'”

Thumbtack told Rain the guarantee covers property damage or loss, not shoddy work or no work at all. “If they run into your fence or drive into your living room, then you’re covered,” said Rain. “But if it’s something that they do while performing the task that you’ve hired them to do, it is not covered.”

Consumer Justice compared Thumbtack’s policies to Angie’s List and Home Advisor.

An Angie’s List spokesperson said companies only make the list by getting good reviews from customers. The site will perform a background check if the professional pays to be promoted by Angie’s List.

Home Advisor requires state licensing and business filing information. The site also searches the sex offender database, and checks for criminal records and civil judgements related to the company.

All three websites say they have teams to try and work out disputes. In Rain’s case, Thumbtack says it tried to mediate, but Hathcoat did not respond. Rain is now suing Hathcoat in small claims court.

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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