UPDATE: My Pool Builder Was Arrested!

bigorangesky

Active member
Aug 5, 2021
42
South Georgia
Pool Size
29000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
TLDR: My builder cannot complete my pool at contracted price, and asking for 24% increase to offset higher material and labor (sub-contractor) prices.

I signed a contract in September 2020 for a gunite pool in South GA/North FL area. About 30k gallons with 8 ft deep end and 7 ft spa. Cost was $88k including some upgrades like a (fairly large) travertine deck. My builder had nothing in his contract about cost increases ... just the straight price and set payments at normal milestones. We broke ground in August 2021 and has been a slow process. At this point, everything is done except for plaster and equipment install -- and I've been waiting about 3 weeks for an update. Finally get a call today that explains the delay - he can't pay for the cost for either. Stated reason is that cost of everything has gone up over the 20 months since I signed the contract and he simply can't afford it.

This is tough because I do know that we are in a crazy time of cost increases across the board, I get it. I want to be reasonable, but also responsible with my money. I also want a completed pool and we are *this* close. My PB has been good for the most part, moderate quality which is what I agreed to pay for. My only complaint has been length of the build (10 months on waiting list, 10 months building so far)

The increase is about $20k, for total of $108k. Then I would cover a few items myself like fencing, landscaping etc. that PB was planning to do as well (in addition to quoted price). I am able to pay the increase, and I really want a finished pool for my kids over the summer.

Is this 20k reasonable? How would you handle it?
 

Wolfepack88

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
531
NJ
Pool Size
17690
Surface
Fiberglass
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
TLDR: My builder cannot complete my pool at contracted price, and asking for 24% increase to offset higher material and labor (sub-contractor) prices.

I signed a contract in September 2020 for a gunite pool in South GA/North FL area. About 30k gallons with 8 ft deep end and 7 ft spa. Cost was $88k including some upgrades like a (fairly large) travertine deck. My builder had nothing in his contract about cost increases ... just the straight price and set payments at normal milestones. We broke ground in August 2021 and has been a slow process. At this point, everything is done except for plaster and equipment install -- and I've been waiting about 3 weeks for an update. Finally get a call today that explains the delay - he can't pay for the cost for either. Stated reason is that cost of everything has gone up over the 20 months since I signed the contract and he simply can't afford it.

This is tough because I do know that we are in a crazy time of cost increases across the board, I get it. I want to be reasonable, but also responsible with my money. I also want a completed pool and we are *this* close. My PB has been good for the most part, moderate quality which is what I agreed to pay for. My only complaint has been length of the build (10 months on waiting list, 10 months building so far)

The increase is about $20k, for total of $108k. Then I would cover a few items myself like fencing, landscaping etc. that PB was planning to do as well (in addition to quoted price). I am able to pay the increase, and I really want a finished pool for my kids over the summer.

Is this 20k reasonable? How would you handle it?
You are in a tough spot. Contract is a contract but then you have to sue then go to court and in many states contractors declare bankruptcy and then re-open as someone else. Trying to get someone else to finish a pool job would almost be impossible, because nobody will want to warrant the old builders work. Let's say to go to court, say you win, do you want this team to finish your pool. Personally I would be ****** and you could strong arm them with threat of litigation, ruining with Google Review etc if contract had no provision for increasing prices. But if you have the money and you want to win the war (i.e. getting the pool done this year for your kids) vs just the battle (forcing him to honor the contract) then maybe you agree with some extended warranties, servicing included, something vs just handing over more money. I'm rambling but "can't afford" that is seriously concerning, because what is this builders cashflow situation in that 20k is s crippling? How do you know he will finish without asking again as prices keep rising. You are in very very tough spot here.
 
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Pool_Medic

In The Industry
Apr 1, 2018
1,705
Bangor Maine
Your pool has over 40k profit, if he has issues paying for remaining items and needs your money to buy them your spidey senses should be tingling. Bankruptcy might be close for him.
As above no company woukd take on an unfinished job, if it was me, I would continue with this builder but only pay in installments that you both agree on. Chalk it up to a hard lesson learned.
 

katiejean13

Active member
Jun 24, 2021
40
Florida
Pool Size
11123
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
We are in the a similar situation… we signed in August of last year, 9 months in and only waiting on a small amount of pavers, plaster, and all equipment. Other clients are further along than us with only plaster remaining….

They then send a generic email stating that after analyzing our account costs have increased 23.6% and we now have to cover 15% of the entire contracted price before they are able to schedule plaster or finish the pool. That’s after we have paid about 90% already. The original contract had nothing about cost increases… they did have some language in our pre-site meeting about prices increasing and they would do their best to absorb but may need to pass some on in order to complete our pool. But unlike a traditional escalation clause you would see in a true contract, this language doesn’t spell out specific materials, amounts or max % increase.
In hindsight, we never should have agreed as that’s basically giving them a blank check. But we understand that costs may go up and I guess assumed they would communicate the specific cost changes as they were happening. If they were unreasonable, then maybe we could have edited our plan to accommodate the budget.

We are also now learning they are asking many of their clients for 15%, which gives me pause about the actual accounting of these increases. They also have not provided any invoices showing the timing or costs increases on the materials for our specific job, and we are in doubt considering we had a lot of work completed in February and March. We don’t understand how they didn’t tell us about the increases as the steps were happening.

We are going to do our best to work with them to come to a price that we believe accurately accounts for any price increase for our project, but also makes us nervous that they may not receive the funds they need from all clients and could be in a worse financial situation than we know. Then we are out the extra money and still without a finished pool. On the other hand, we could flat out refuse but then have an impossible time finding someone else to complete our pool, not to mention how much more it might cost.

Lesson learned for us, but hopefully also a lesson learned for PBs out there that they could protect themselves and set expectations to clients via a better more specific contract and good communication. Had we known when they shot our pool in February that that part of the job was 10% more, we could plan ahead and save for it. Instead of getting hit with a last minute 15k bill and feel like our project is held hostage until we figure out how to pay for it. 😭
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
21,420
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
My advice would be to seek legal counsel. You need to knows your rights as a consumer under FL state laws and you need to protect yourself against this pool builders possibly bankruptcy. It is very common, but financially stupid, in this industry for builders to use the payment from one job to finance another job, especially in states where there is little regulatory oversight. You want to be careful that all the subs for your job got paid or else they can place mechanic liens on your home until they are paid. A lawyer can best advise you on what to do and it’s worth the few hundred bucks you spend to get that advice. You don’t necessarily have to send a lawyer after the builder right now, you just need good advice.
 

Wolfepack88

Gold Supporter
Jun 21, 2020
531
NJ
Pool Size
17690
Surface
Fiberglass
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
My advice would be to seek legal counsel. You need to knows your rights as a consumer under FL state laws and you need to protect yourself against this pool builders possibly bankruptcy. It is very common, but financially stupid, in this industry for builders to use the payment from one job to finance another job, especially in states where there is little regulatory oversight. You want to be careful that all the subs for your job got paid or else they can place mechanic liens on your home until they are paid. A lawyer can best advise you on what to do and it’s worth the few hundred bucks you spend to get that advice. You don’t necessarily have to send a lawyer after the builder right now, you just need good advice.
Joyful is dead on!
 

bigorangesky

Active member
Aug 5, 2021
42
South Georgia
Pool Size
29000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Thanks for all the great advice here. I agree with perhaps consulting a lawyer, but I really don't want to turn this into a legal battle ... I'd much rather have the finished pool, even if costing slightly more than we planned.
If you agree to pay more...I would tell him you are going to pay the subs directly!
He actually suggested this right off the bat, which I guess is a good thing. Told me I can purchase equipment, and pay the plaster crew directly, and not give another dollar to the PB. (these are the last 2 major expenses)

We are in the a similar situation
Wow this sounds exactly the same. I think no one is surprised to hear about cost increases these days, the biggest problem is just communicating and being transparent with their customers. I don't feel like anyone is trying to take advantage of us, they are just bad managing their cash flow. I've spoken to numerous other contractors over past 2 years and NONE of them will guarantee a price quote more than 30 days, some even shorter. Why do PBs think they can set a price for 2 years and not expect any changes?

The biggest fault of my PB is taking 10+ months to build the thing. If he had finished quickly, less time for costs to increase and his quote would have been more accurate.


Here is everything I have left to complete:
  1. Plaster - Wet Edge Quartz Montego (I'd pay crew directly)
  2. Purchase all Pentair equipment (I'd pay supplier directly)
    1. From contract: VS Pump, SWG, Propane Heater(for spa), sand filter, pressure cleaner pump, air blower, easy touch 8 w/screen logic, globrite lights, automatic valves for switching spa/pool mode
  3. Install equipment (PB covers labor cost)
  4. Install pool return fittings, spa jets, main drains. (PB labor I think)
  5. Connect house water line to equipment for auto fill (PB covers labor)
  6. Install propane tank and connect to heater (I'll pay local propane company directly)
  7. Bring electric service to equipment pad (I was going to pay this anyways)
  8. Fence Install - 200ft. PB quoted $6k extra, but I'll have to pay myself now
  9. Landscaping - will DIY or hire myself.
  10. Startup process -- I am comfortable to do myself, but unsure about warranty issues with plaster ... may ask PB to cover.
  11. Startup chemicals + salt -- unsure who buys or how much $$.

For electric, anyone know what size circuit is required and do the wires go directly into the easy touch panel? i.e. no other electrical box is needed on outside of my house? Need to know what to ask electrician for.
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
21,420
Tucson, AZ
Pool Size
16000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
I suggested consulting a lawyer not to start a legal battle but to know what your rights are. You are entering a complex legal domain where a contract is being breached and you are planning to pick up the cost of some very expensive items. You need to know EXACTLY what liabilities you are taking on and what responsibilities the PB will have. This may require a revision of your existing contract to cover yourself properly or you could forfeit any future claims. Once again, this is where a lawyer needs to get involved so as to avoid a nasty surprise in the future.

At the very least, I would ask the PB for lien release documentation (invoices signed with PAID IN FULL on them) from every sub used so far. You do not want a sub coming back to you in a year demanding you pay up.

As for electrical - call Pentair and ask them for a qualified installer in your area. Pool automation panels are not typical electrical installations and we have seen lots of screwed up wiring on Pentair panels because the electrician had no idea what he was doing.

As for equipment - get in touch with that supplier soon. The pandemic related supply chain crash has made very long lead times on equipment. You need to know what’s available and how long it’s going to take.

Pool fittings are typically placed by the plaster installer.

Plaster startup - bypass the PB and work with your installer on this, they own the warranty work and so they will have the required startup process.
 
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jimmythegreek

TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 10, 2017
4,051
Morris Cnty NJ
Not all materials are up, but many are. Equipment being a major issue and price jump. 15-25% is about where an overall job falls using subs, a do it all PB has it easier. Overall 40% is the current market adjustment from the 2020 season pricing. In my region.
 
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bigorangesky

Active member
Aug 5, 2021
42
South Georgia
Pool Size
29000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Here is the quote for equipment purchase. We agreed I would pay this directly, and PB covers all other parts and labor to install. It's more than I thought, but I guess it costs what it costs if I want it today. Luckily that have it all in stock, this is the local SCP distributor.

20220601_072504.jpg

Looks to include everything I am expecting, any concerns?

I did speak with the installer and all good there.
 

Foxer

Gold Supporter
Jul 6, 2021
187
Salt Lake City
Pool Size
40000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-60
Sorry you're in this situation. Since you haven't ordered equipment yet, I would consider getting the Intellicenter instead of easytouch/screen logic. It's roughly the same price and is Pentairs newer automation.

I would also absolutely get the microbite lights instead of the globrites. Microbrites are newer, but same size. Globrites are known to have issues and use a proprietary adapter vs microbrites that fit a standard 1-1/2" fitting.

Supply is going to be an issue though.
 
Last edited:

sktn77a

Gold Supporter
May 16, 2010
2,483
Chapel Hill, NC
I guess the builder is asking to to take this entire sorry state on your own. He's made a profit on your pool and I don't think its right to expect you to bear the entire burden of his unexpected cost increases. Have you tried negotiation a 50/50 or 60/40 split in the price increase?
 

Davegnh

Well-known member
Jul 31, 2021
71
Southern NH
Pool Size
11000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
I don't think it's reasonable if he finished on time it would have been too cost. I bet he signed up too many customers and could not finish what he promised. It was a crazy year for pools and he saw dollar signs.
 

bigorangesky

Active member
Aug 5, 2021
42
South Georgia
Pool Size
29000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
My pool builder was arrested! Apparently dozens of customers are left with unfinished pools, despite having paid the majority of contract amount. I decided to pay the extra $20,000 (directly to subs) and thankfully got my pool finished. I feel lucky to be able to put this all behind me.

Valdosta pool builder accused of defrauding customers
 

Mdragger88

Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 1, 2018
6,970
Hernando, Ms
Pool Size
26000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Intex Krystal Clear
My pool builder was arrested! Apparently dozens of customers are left with unfinished pools, despite having paid the majority of contract amount. I decided to pay the extra $20,000 (directly to subs) and thankfully got my pool finished. I feel lucky to be able to put this all behind me.

Valdosta pool builder accused of defrauding customers
Wow 😯 Hopefully some folks will get some of their $$ back. Although many builders take the bankruptcy way out so not much to be had for those who were defrauded.
Glad u got your pool finished. At least he will have to pay somehow between lawyer fees/jail time/his time.
 

Mcow

Well-known member
Jul 5, 2017
319
Greenville, Texas
Pool Size
22000
Surface
Plaster
SWG Type
Pentair Intellichlor IC-40
Man this is a terrible situation and glad you were able to get it worked out even if it was a painful resolution! I do have to say I am glad he got arrested. Too few bad contractors actually face legal consequences let alone criminal consequences. I've dealt with subs and contractors flipping house and personal construction projects who set up fair payment terms usually materials paid for up front once on site and labor paid on progress. I have always been amazed at how PB front end their contracts so much. You end up paying for 50-60% at 30% completion and it only gets worst as you go. I think we had 90% paid before plaster and equipment on our most recent pool which was probably closer to 20-25% of the cost. I will admit I was nervous all the way up until I was filling it with water. Although not as long as yours we were in a similar situation had signed the contract about 6 months before starting and build took 8 months. I was also waiting to hear the PB needed more money but to their credit this never happened. We had one lingering thing the pool automation control panel was on back order which they did let me hold back the equipment cost but that did not include the installation cost. I was sure I would have to pay for this myself to have someone else do it but my PB came through on that too.

I think the big issue is the demand and you have PB who are essentially just a GC constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. People are willing to take gambles because they are in a competitive situation to get on PB schedules. Perfect storm for the consumer to get screwed and most of the time they just dissolve their business and re-open later under a new one leaving the consumer holding the bag.
 

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