HomeAdvisor under fire after lawsuit, consumers allege misleading ads

In a FOX 32 special report, we're investigating a website that thousands turn to, to find background-checked contractors.

HomeAdvisor touts itself as the number one place to find trusted pros to get your home project done. But just how much vetting really goes on?

When we started digging, we discovered hundreds of complaints against the company - more than 500 nationwide just in the last year.

William Gordon showed us the garage that was supposed to be converted to his bedroom by now. Gordon and his wife planned to move in with her parents, including father-in-law Richard Harris.

“My wife and I are elderly, not kidding, but we need help,” Harris said.

The family hired a contractor they found on HomeAdvisor and work was supposed to be done within six weeks.

“They came in, and they talked to us, and I was convinced that they were good,” Harris said.

But after paying about $20k up front back in January, Gordon says they have nothing to show for it.

“It's devastating. He didn't just rip somebody off, he really ripped apart our lives,” Gordon said.

Gordon says that company dissolved, but popped up under another name on HomeAdvisor with a 5-star rating. He told HomeAdvisor what was happening, but they didn't budge.

“They're still enabling him to prey on other people, knowing it's the same thief, just wearing a different mask,” Gordon said.

“We had a leak, and after the leak, we needed some electrical work done,” said Ed Marsh of Elgin.

Marsh also needed a contractor and hired a different company on HomeAdvisor. This time, the contractor showed up but that work wasn't up to code, and it gets worse.

“They don't have the credentials to be working in Elgin. It's just that simple,” Marsh said. “I asked [HomeAdvisor] to take that down, and they won't.

Both men tell us they trusted the contractors were vetted and licensed. But when we dug through HomeAdvisor's fine print, we found it only background checks the owner of a company. And for licenses, it just checks the state level license, meaning a contractor you hire on HomeAdvisor may not be licensed to do work in your city.

“I’m an average homeowner. And I want to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen to another homeowner that happened to me,” Marsh said.

And the complaints keep rolling in, more than 500 in the last year. In fact, the city of San Francisco is suing the company for false and misleading ads.

Both men hope HomeAdvisor tightens their processes, so their situations don't happen to anyone else. 

“He's just literally being sent more victims. And they know it,” Gordon said.

HomeAdvisor tells us it doesn't comment on ongoing legal matters. For Gordon’s case, the company says it doesn't have a record of him finding his contractor on its site, though Gordon insists he did.

For Marsh’s case, HomeAdvisor recommends consumers check local requirements themselves. Experts also say do your own homework – check licenses and references yourself.

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