Pool company takes money, leaves customers with unfinished swimming pools

Diane Wilson Image
Friday, February 3, 2023
Pool company takes money, leaves customers with unfinished work
Several Triangle homeowners are looking for answers after a Durham-based pool company left their pockets empty and pools unfinished.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several Triangle homeowners are looking for answers after a Durham-based pool company left their pockets empty and pools unfinished.

Now, the pool company owner has started a new business and the homeowners want to warn others to protect them from getting ripped off.

Gavin and Hillary Philipps expected to already have a backyard oasis at their Orange County home.

"We interviewed five or six different contractors and it was a time when none of them had the time for projects," Gavin said. "Spotlight Pools said they could deliver it ... thought we could get in and be swimming by August."

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But it's now many months past August and the Philippses don't have a finished pool, despite paying Spotlight Pools LLC of Durham more than $300,000.

The Philippses signed a contract with Spotlight Pools in January 2022.

"Initially they started digging and doing some of the pre-work that all seem to be moving forward. And it was after the digging was done that things started to slow down," he said.

Little by little work would happen, so Philipps continued to make payments as scheduled.

"They came back and did the shooting of a little bit more of the concrete and finishing of the tile and since August we have not seen anything of them," Gavin Philipps said.

Philipps said there has been no action from Spotlight Pools, despite phone calls and text messages promising him that work would continue. Meanwhile, when Philipps had another pool company come out to see what it would take to finish the job, the company found several problems with the work that Spotlight Pools did.

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"The work that has been done is wrought with issues where we've got giant cracks running from one side to the other. They found that the levels of the concrete ranged from three inches to six inches and for a pool of this size, it should be eight to twelve," Philipps said.

To finish the pool correctly, Phillips said it's going to cost him another $150,000 on top of the $300,000 Spotlight Pools already pocketed.

The Philipps family is not alone, as Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has now heard from seven other homeowners who span throughout the Triangle, including Wake, Person, and Johnston counties. All of them report hiring Spotlight Pools LLC of Durham and paying the company thousands of dollars for a pool but never getting the goods.

One of those homeowners is Rachel Towne.

"How long am I going to have a pit in my backyard? Because right now it feels like it's going to be forever, and I don't know where to go from here," she said. Towne paid Spotlight Pools $95,000. "No equipment, and it's the salt-water system, the heater like all the things I'm missing."

She said employees with Spotlight Pools spent months sending her dozens of text messages promising to be back on the job, but it never happened.

"At least it's not just me they decided not to work with, they're not working with anybody. But then I get concerned are they out of money? Am I screwed on my pool? Am I going to have to complete this pool?" Towne said.

To add to these customers' frustration, Spotlight Pools is still advertising on Facebook. One of its ads states: "Building swimming pools since 1987. We are currently building pools in 70 working days, once permit is issued."

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson tried to get answers from Spotlight Pools and owner David Arthur. Emails and phone calls to the company went unanswered. She went to the location for the business listed on its website and contracts, but there was no sign of the company.

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Wilson even went to Arthur's home but got no answer at the door. Besides owning Spotlights Pools LLC of Durham, Arthur just started another pool company and registered it with the NC Secretary of State on Jan. 19. That company is called MD Construction NC LLC, and its website claims to build pools in the RDU area.

The address listed for that company brings you to a UPS store.

Eventually, Wilson did get a call from Arthur's attorney who said they had no comment for this report.

As for these homeowners left with unfinished pools and now facing thousands of dollars more in construction costs because of the mess left behind by Spotlight Pools, they're just wondering what they can do next.

"I'm an average-income kind of gal. I don't have just all this money everywhere," Towne said.

"I guess I'm fortunate in that I think I'm going to be able to spend the money to finish this, but not everybody's in that boat, and I don't want other people to be getting to this point and being left with nothing but something that collects rainwater," Philipps said.

Arthur is a licensed general contractor under the company Spotlight Pools. However, according to the Executive Director of the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors, neither Arthur individually nor MD Construction NC is licensed to bid on any work that's more than $30,000.

All of these customers said they did their research and interviewed several contractors. They said Spotlight Pools was the only company that claimed to be available to get their job started right away and finished within months. That promise, which ultimately went unfulfilled, proved extremely costly for these families.