BRANDON, Fla. (FOX 13) - As the investigation into a Brandon pool company expands, a group of homeowners who might be out tens of thousands of dollars apiece gathered together Wednesday to discuss what to do next.
FOX 13 has now learned of at least 21 homeowners who hired Exclusive Pools to build them a new pool. More than a dozen of them met at a home in Valrico, sharing stories of frustration and uncertainty.
"We built a lanai, we wanted a pool to do, I dare say, golden years, and we have anything but. We have a pile of dirt right now and some gunite," said Jeff Lilly, referring to the type of material commonly used to pool construction.
Donna Lawler faced a similar situation, but quickly realized she wasn't alone. According to the Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts, 18 Exclusive Pools customers have had liens placed on their homes by a subcontractor who claims the company hasn't paid up.
Lawler began trying to contact each of the impacted homeowners.
"I think a lot of us felt like we were alone in this and come to find out, we weren't," she said. "I was floored. It was astonishing when I found out the amount and that's when I realized this is a lot bigger and there's more to it."
Lilly is among the customers who have had liens placed on their homes by a subcontractor, which Florida law allows when a subcontractor hasn't been paid by the contractor of a project.
He wants to know why Exclusive Pools' owner, Pat Reardon, is putting so many people in this position.
"It takes all of four hours to clean that lien up. You just have to pay the bill," he said.
Hillsborough County Consumer Services launched an investigation and, following FOX 13's story that aired Tuesday, the number of complaints filed regarding Exclusive Pools more than doubled to 10.
"With a large number of complaints all at once, that's a big red flag," said Eric Olsen, the department's division director.
For the second straight day, FOX 13 attempted to talk to Reardon, but no one answered the door at the business and our calls to the owner were not returned.
In a text message Reardon's son, Eric Reardon, wrote, "As I have told all of the customers that I have spoken to.. the liens will be resolved and the [contracts] will be honored and completed. This is all of what has been shared with me as I am only an employee that designs the swimming pools. Pat will be the one to give you any more details."
FOX 13 has been able to tally up the amount paid by nine of the 21 customers who appear to be involved in this and, altogether, they've paid between $400,000 and $500,000.
"I think a lot of us have different information that can help each other because we're not in it alone," Lawler said, adding they have not ruled out taking legal action.