Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
HomeAdvisor – a home service provider that connects customers with prescreened home service professionals – “has yet to fully explain how it recommended an unlicensed contractor with a lengthy criminal past,” according to a report by KOAA-TV News 5 Investigates in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Home Service Unlicensed Contractor
News 5 Investigates reported that Colorado-based HomeAdvisor claimed to conduct background checks on its network of home service professionals but still recommended Travis Huber who “failed to complete multiple renovation jobs” and is also “a sex offender with a criminal record dating back more than two decades.”
News 5 Investigates revealed that customers who used HomeAdvisor to find a reputable and licensed contractor claimed Huber “promised quality work, took their money, and never delivered the finished product.” One customer sued Huber and won $7,500 which she said he has not paid to her yet.
News 5 Investigates uncovered Huber’s criminal record that included “convictions for criminal mischief, trespassing, assault, theft, aggravated motor vehicle theft and sexual assault – convictions HomeAdvisor didn’t seem to know anything about and neither did his victims at the time they hired him.”
News 5 Investigates discovered that Huber – whose legal name is Michael Travis Huber but may also go by Michael Huber, Travis Huber, or Michael T. Huber – had no contractors license according to a check of the Pueblo Regional Building website. HomeAdvisor issued the following statement to News 5 Investigates:
“As soon as we became aware of potential concerns for this pro, he was terminated from our network, after less than two weeks of participation. Our customers are always a priority and following this event, we have enhanced our screening process to help prevent a similar situation from happening in the future.”
In November 2018, ESR News reported that a couple claimed that HomeAdvisor – which uses certain criteria used to screen service professional businesses when they apply for membership in its network – recommended a contractor with a criminal record who left their home renovation project a “disaster.”
WCNC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina reported that a couple 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 who also turned out to be a convicted felon on supervised probation.
The couple said 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.
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 that 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.
The complaint read: “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.”
The need for employers to run background checks on the “extended workforce” such as home service workers was previsouly chosen one of the “ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends” 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.
“A company must be accurate when claiming their workers are safe or consumers could be lulled into a false sense of security. 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,” Rosen said.
A tragic example of why background checks of home service workers are needed occurred in 2001 when a worker sent on to the Florida home of a woman named Sue Weaver was a convicted sex offender on parole. 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.
ESR Whitepaper on Screening Home Service Workers
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) offers a complimentary whitepaper – “Background Screening of Extended Workforce Necessary to Compete in Modern Economy” – to show employers how to 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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