Dozens of homeowners in the Tampa Bay area say they're stuck with construction sites in their backyard after paying tens of thousands of dollars for pools.
The "unique backyard oasis of your dreams" is what homeowners in Hillsborough and Pasco counties thought they would get when they hired Olympus Pools.
The ABC Action News I-Team found that the company, which describes itself as the largest customer pool builder in Florida, pulled around 600 permits in the two counties in 2020. That same data reveals the contractor finished about 150 of those jobs.
"It is a dirty mess," James Halstead said, describing his backyard.
The Halstead's records show they've paid $98,000 of the $109,000 total price since they signed the contract last June. Halstead is one of more than two dozen homeowners who've contacted the I-Team for action and answers.
"We were originally told our pool would be done in October," Dana Carter said.
Carter and her husband signed their contract with Olympus on July 17, but the couple says the contractor didn't break ground until January. By April, the Carter's were beyond frustrated.
Most of the Olympus Pool customers who contacted the I-Team shared stories of lengthy delays and little response from their contractor.
A pattern of complaints led the Better Business Bureau to revoke Olympus Pools accreditation last month. The BBB also posted an alert stating Olympus Pools has 24 pending complaints.
On its website, Olympus says it has completed thousands of projects. We also found this statement on their webpage. "......many pool builders in the area have a reputation for dragging projects out over 4-5 months, sometimes even 6 months at a time! We find this unacceptable..."
Pasco County Deputy Building Official Anthony Mastracchio says pool contractors, in general, pulled double the permits in 2020 than they did in 2019. The county refers consumers with complaints to state regulators.
The I-Team checked state records and found the Department of Business and Professional Regulation filed a complaint April 6 against Olympus owner James Staten Jr. for contracting a project without a permit.
Regulators have asked the state construction licensing board for a reprimand that could include the revocation or suspension of Staten's license.
Richard and Holly Wilke say their lender paid Olympus 90% of their $43,000 pool cost after signing the contract last August. On March 2, the two sides signed a contract cancellation in which Olympus agreed to refund the lender's money in exchange for a 10% or $4,300 fee, which the Wilke's paid. When they contacted the I-Team a month later, the couple was still waiting on the contractor to return the money to the bank.
I-Team Investigator Jackie Callaway contacted Olympus about the Wilkes, the Halsteads, the Carters and other frustrated customers. The company responded with this email:
"As the largest custom pool builder in Florida, Olympus has enjoyed building relationships and thousands of luxury pools for many years. We did not foresee the impacts COVID-19 would have on product demand, supply chain, and manufacturing. These issues that are out of our control, have affected our industry as a whole. Of the nearly 1,000 customers who purchased a pool from us last year, we understand a few are frustrated with the extended time frames during the pandemic. We are all looking forward to seeing things "normalize" and hope the impacts of Covid on the construction industry begin to lessen in the near future. We look forward to continuing to serve our community and building many more luxury backyard resorts."
After our calls and emails, Olympus responded to nearly every customer whose jobs we asked about. The company returned all the money on the Wilke contract, including that $4,300 cancellation fee the couple paid in March.
The company said this week they would not sell any more pools for now so they can focus on current unfinished jobs.
And Hernando County has said it will stop the company from pulling any more permits until Olympus makes progress on current projects.
A hearing for the state's case against Olympus Pools is scheduled for next month. State investigators are not able to comment on an ongoing investigation.
Complaints against licensed contractors can be filed with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at www.myfloridalicense.com.