Home Service Provider Allegedly Recommended Contractor with Criminal Record Who Botched Job

ESR Check

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A North Carolina couple claims that HomeAdvisor – a home service provider claiming to have “one of the industry’s most comprehensive screening processes”– recommended a contractor with a criminal record who left their home renovation project a “disaster,” according to WCNC-TV in Charlotte, NC.

WCNC-TV reports that Geoff and Julie Vickers wanted to add space to their home to care for a family member dying from cancer and used the HomeAdvisor website to find Kenneth Bell, a licensed contractor in North Carolina who also turned out to be a convicted felon on supervised probation.

“Bell pled guilty to federal drug charges, and in January of 2014 was sentenced to 31 months in prison and two years supervised release. He applied for a contractor’s license in North Carolina in July 2016. He received it two months later, just 2 ½ years after being sent to federal prison,” WCNC-TV reports.

The Vickers claim Bell “botched the renovation and abandoned the job” and they are “out an estimated $200,000 over the course of this project and litigation back and forth with Bell,” who answered “no” to questions about criminal convictions on applications for his contractor’s license, WCNC-TV reports.

“All these things make me very angry, very distrustful and bitter,” Geoff Vickers told WCNC-TV. “And I am angry at the system that doesn’t have procedures and policies in place to protect homeowners like us.” The Vickers added that HomeAdvisor is negotiating with their lawyer to resolve this case.

In March 2018, ESR News reported that the San Francisco District Attorney filed a civil complaint against HomeAdvisor for allegedly broadcasting radio and television ads with false and misleading information about the background checks performed on home service workers sent to the homes of their customers.

“Companies like this offer a convenient service, but they also introduce strangers into our homes,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón stated in a press release about the complaint. “They must operate their businesses in a way that is within the parameters of the law and not misleading.”

The complaint claimed HomeAdvisor broadcasts ads claiming home service professionals like plumbers, electricians, painters, and housekeepers retained with HomeAdvisor undergo background checks. One ad tells viewers: “They do background checks, so you know you can trust them with your home.”

The complaint claimed HomeAdvisor performs background checks on owners/principals of independently-owned businesses but not on the owners/principals when the businesses are franchisees, dealers, or independent contractors of larger national companies or corporate accounts with ads on HomeAdvisor.

The complaint stated: “HomeAdvisor’s television and radio advertisements are false and misleading. The advertisements are likely to deceive consumers into believing that all service personal hiring through HomeAdvisor who come into their homes have passed criminal background checks when that is not the case.”

In August 2018, ESR News also reported that District Attorney Gascon filed a similar lawsuit against Angie’s List – a website that provides ratings and reviews for home service providers – over alleged false advertising of the background checks the company performs on these home service providers.

The complaint filed by District Attorney Gascon indicated a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page about background checks on the Angie’s List website states: “Angie’s List has criminal background checks performed annually on the principal/owner or relevant manager of all Certified Service Providers.”

A video advertisement for Angie’s List on YouTube entitled “Wanted” – where a restaurant waiter notices a cook too closely resembles a wanted poster on the wall – makes a similar claim with an announcer stating: “Annual background checks, another reason to get Angie’s List for your home.”

A tragic example of why background checks of home service workers are needed occurred in 2001 when a worker who was a convicted sex offender on paroles went to the Florida home of a woman named Sue Weaver. Six months after completing the work, he returned to the house to rape and murder Weaver.

Since a background check may have revealed the murderer’s past criminal record, the victim’s sister, Lucia Bone, started the Sue Weaver CAUSE (Consumer Awareness of Unsafe Service Employment) to promote screening standards for companies providing home service workers for customers.

The need for employers to run background checks on the “extended workforce” such as home service workers is one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” for 2018 selected by Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a background check firm located in the San Francisco, California area.

“Employers can be sitting ducks for expensive litigation, negative publicity, and economic loss if they do not conduct proper background checks when hiring from the extended workforce,” explained ESR founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Attorney Lester Rosen, a noted background check expert.

“A background check performed on the company that sent the home service worker is not the same as having the actual worker coming into the home being checked out,” said Rosen, the author of  ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ a comprehensive guide to background checks for employment purposes.

Rosen explained that all of the rules of due diligence apply with equal force if a member of the extended workforce causes harm. “Businesses can be liable if, in the exercise of reasonable care, they should have known a worker in the extended workforce was too dangerous, unqualified, or unfit for employment,” he said.

“A company must be accurate when claiming their workers are safe or consumers could be lulled into a false sense of security,” Rosen said. “If a home service provider claims to run background checks on workers, it seems reasonable consumers would expect the person showing up at their door was screened.”

ESR provides state of the art technology for employers that need to perform background checks on the extended workforce for the fast-growing “gig economy” that focuses on temporary work or “gigs.” To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Industry-Specific-Solutions/On-Demand/.

ESR White Paper on Screening Home Service Workers

Employment Screening Solutions® (ESR) offers a complimentary white paper entitled “Background Screening of Extended Workforce Necessary to Compete in Modern Economy” to remind employers that they perform the same background checks on home service workers as they would on regular full-time office workers.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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