5 On Your Side

Referral sites may not always refer the best

Posted March 10, 2009 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2009 6:52 p.m. EDT

— Many Web sites provide referrals for contractors, and Web users may assume those companies check out those contractors before listing them. Five on Your Side has found that is not necessarily the case.

Nancy Welsh said she searched the Internet to find a contractor to remodel her home. The Web site ReliableRemodeler.com popped up for her. The site claims it gets quality local contractors to do your work.

“I thought that's what they were…they actually qualified them…they actually made sure that they were good,” Welsh said.

Welsh said the site connected her to contractor Richard Stacy, who was anything but reliable. She said she paid Stacy, the owner of Customized Contractors previously RPS Contracting and RPS Builders, $9,000 to build an addition to her home.. He never finished the work.

“I would be surprised if you found any job that he's ever completed,” Welsh said.

Debbie Dunkley also found Stacy through the site.

“When you’ve gone through a company like Reliable Remodeler…the title there gives you the impression that maybe you can rely on them to a certain extent to get you the right person,” Dunkley said.

Dunkley said she paid Stacy $3,900 down to build a workroom in her basement. All she got was a hole in the ground.

“It was the most expensive hole I've ever paid for,” Dunkley said.

Four of the seven other people who complained to 5 on Your Side about Stacy hired him through another referral Web site – RenovationExperts.com.

Stacy’s long court record, including multiple charges of forgery and writing bad checks, as well as taking money without doing work, has some customers wondering how referral companies work and what kind of screening they do.

On some sites, contractors pay a monthly "screening and membership fee" and/or fees for homeowner "referrals."

A spokesman at Renovation Experts told WRAL News the company does not do credit or criminal background checks, but added, "it's in the works." He said after receiving "multiple consumer complaints” the company "deactivated" Stacy's profile on the site.

Reliable Remodelers sales manager Chris Camp said the site is "like the Yellow Pages."

Experts and customers say when looking for a contractor it is best to do your own extensive investigating.

“Check, check, check and double-check everything you can about the person,” Dunkley said.