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Unlicensed contractor builds pool creating string of problems on home, family says

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Two months ago all the DeMolas wanted was a swimming pool. What they got instead was an unfinished $18,000 hole in the ground and a huge headache to deal with.

The DeMolas hired Carlos Herrera of C&R Pools, and on May 20 he began working on it. He said it would take four to five weeks to complete the job. However, from the very beginning there was a problem. Herrera's crew had started digging the pool going the wrong way!

The homeowner, Richard DeMola, tried to explain to them that the pool was being dug the wrong way, but according to him, the workers did not speak English.

Because of this misunderstanding, all of the pavers in DeMola’s backyard were pulled up unnecessarily.

This is just the first in a very long line of problems. DeMola said that Herrera crew of just two people was digging the pool by hand.

“They were digging the pool by hard. He sent two fellows without a jackhammer. Two fellows digging this pool by hand was impossible,” Demola said.

Another problem was the simple fact that during the project, the DeMolas almost never saw the elusive contractor.

“He would come in the morning, five minutes, drop the guys off, not oversee nothing,” explained Demola.

Something else that Richard noticed about the project was that even with such a slow pace, there were still a lot of mistakes. He pointed these problems out to PIX11 News.

There was no insulation at the bottom of the pool, so water could seep in through the cinderblock wall barrier. The stairs were too steep, which makes ingress and egress very difficult. The drain for the pool filter was tilted at a slight angle. The electric to half of their house was cut, so the DeMolas have been running extension cords to power it. There are also missing pavers all over the yard, and the ones that were replaced after the crew took them up are not level.

This headache could have been avoided if the DeMolas had done their research on Herrera and C&R Pools instead of taking the recommendation of a friend.

If the family had done their research they would have found out that Herrera does not have a license to install pools. Demola admitted that he did not know whether or not Herrera had the proper documentation.

However, according to Herrera, his customers do know that he doesn’t have the license.

“When they call me they know we don’t got no license,” Herrera said. “They ask me, and I told him we don’t go no license.”

It is against the law to install a pool without a license in New York.

Something else that is required by law is a contract, which was never made in any meaningful way by either Herrera or the DeMolas. The contract that Herrera gave them does not even list his address. All it says is “pool installation” with a start date, May 20, and the price, $24,000.

Herrera reassured PIX11 News that even though nothing was explicitly stated on the contract, his clients are well aware that he knows what needs to be done.

After paying Carlos $18,000, the DeMolas decided enough is enough and fired Herrera from the job. Herrera insists that this was just a way that they could get out of paying him the remaining $6,000, and that the project was a mere three days from being completed.

DeMola is not buying it.

“I have to find a way to get my $18,000 back, so I can start with somebody else,” DeMola told PIX11 News.

The problem is that although the New York City Consumer Affairs Department has a fund for consumers seeking to recover damages, it only applies to licensed contractors. Since Herrera is unlicensed, the family would have to sue him on their own, which could be extremely costly. On top of that, even if they won they might not even be able to collect.