By Paul Owers
5:08 PM EDT, June 18, 2013
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Tuesday that her office is suing Nationwide Pools, accusing the Pompano Beach-based company of violating the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The 17-page lawsuit alleges Nationwide failed to complete construction of pools, charged illegal fees and didn’t pay subcontractors, who ended up filing liens on customers’ homes.
The suit filed in Broward County Circuit Court seeks restitution for consumers and a permanent injunction that prevents the company and its officials, including President Keith Stuart, from building more pools.
Dozens of South Florida homeowners have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, which gave the company an “F” rating.
Some customers say Nationwide took thousands of dollars but didn’t complete the projects. Others say the company never delivered on promises to fix construction defects.
“Floridians should be able to trust the companies they do business with, and they should receive the services advertised or promised,” Bondi said in a statement.
Stuart could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The suit said the company stopped operating in late May. But in its last few weeks and months, Nationwide improperly demanded “progress payments” from customers, according to the suit.
“When customers who paid those monies complained about additional delays, (Nationwide) engaged in a series of lies and misrepresentations about ‘supply shortages’ and ‘damaged items’ in order to string them along,” the suit said.
The suit also accuses the company of selling pools, obtaining new permits and digging up customers’ backyards with no intention of ever finishing the jobs.
“I’m glad (the state) stepped in; I wish it was sooner,” said Donald Pittman, 45, of Royal Palm Beach.
Pittman said he filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau about two years ago. Nationwide finished his pool, but the concrete deck started cracking and pool tiles fell off. He said he won a $7,300 award in arbitration, but hasn't been paid.
Last month, the Broward County chapter of the Florida Swimming Pool Association canceled Nationwide's membership and fined the company a maximum $1,000 for ethics violations, said Wendy Parker, executive director of the statewide association.
Nationwide has been named as a defendant in a dozen lawsuits in Broward County in recent years, records show.
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