Families out Thousands of Dollars After San Diego County Pool Company Goes Under

NBC 7 Responds explains how consumers can protect themselves during pricey contractor projects

NBC Universal, Inc.

Building a pool is one of the most expensive upgrades you can make to your home. Several local families who took the plunge are drowning in anger after they say a contractor ghosted them, leaving huge holes in their backyards.

“It’s just been a nightmare every step of the way so far,” David Giles said.

Giles and his husband, Brett Hunter, who paid Superior Pools $113,000 out of a $130,000 contract, said work stopped last July, leaving them with a big dirt hole in the backyard.

An unfinished pool in backyard
NBC San Diego
The unfinished pool in the backyard of David Giles and Brett Hunter

It's just been a nightmare every step of the way.

David Giles

The couple soon found they weren’t alone.

“The stories were coming in that he was doing this, time and time again, for the last 12 months, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” Hunter said.

“I can’t look at my backyard," Stephanie Vaughan said. "I need to just catch my breath,"

Vaughan told us she refinanced her home and borrowed money to pay Superior Pools a little over $150,000 for a pool. The picture below shows what was left in her backyard.

An unfinished pool in a backyard
Stephanie Vaughan
The unfinished pool in Stephanie Vaughan's backyard

“I’m scared, honestly, to have anyone work on it," Vaughan said. "The electrical and gas isn’t done. I don’t even know if it’s a hazard.”

“I’m not used to dealing with people like that,” said Bill Cox, another Superior Pools customer. 

Cox said, just like David and Stephanie, he compared contractors and checked licenses, bonds and reviews before signing a contract. During the course of five months, he paid $157,000 on a contract for $175,000. The picture below shows what he was left with.

An unfinished pool in a backyard
Bill Cox
The unfinished pool in Bill Cox's backyard

Cox says he hounded the company for months, and in December he met with Jack Marshall, the owner of Superior Pools, along with his son Josh Marshall.

“He looked us in the eye and said that it basically would be done by Jan. 16,” Cox said. But that day came and went, and Cox's frustration remained.

“I just don’t really know if you could put a dollar sign on that — it’s really frustrating,” Cox said as he started to become emotional.

NBC 7 Responds went to the Superior Pools office in Santee looking for answers. We found a notice on the door indicating that the owners of the building thought the space had been abandoned.

Notice of Belief of Abandonment
NBC San Diego
NBC 7 found a "Notice of Belief of Abandonment" on Superior Pools' office door

NBC 7 pulled up the company’s license on the Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB), which confirmed the company is owned by Marshall, though some of the people we spoke with said they mostly dealt with his son Josh.

The company had its contractor’s license suspended on Nov. 15 for failing to comply with a bond payout, NBC 7 learned.

The CSLB said it was investigating 10 disclosable complaints against Superior Pools, and it posted them to its site the same day it responded to NBC 7's email.

Some of the potential violations the CSLB is looking into include “abandonment without legal excuse of any construction project,” “departing from trade standards” and “receiving or requesting more money than work completed.”

“The contract can’t be frontloaded the way that they are,” Giles said. “When I talked to the people at the state licensing board, they were upset that I had paid for equipment that was not delivered there right away.”

Giles said the CSLB told him it has 10 additional complaints that aren’t posted on its site, with possibly more to come as part of its investigation. He also thanked NBC 7 Responds, saying the investigator pointed to our inquiries as pushing the case forward.

“CSLB appreciates NBC 7/Telemundo 20 bringing consumers' concerns to our attention," reads an email, in part, sent to NBC 7. "While we have had an open investigation into Superior Pools contracting activity, CSLB was prompted by NBC 7's inquiry and information provided to look further into the complaints received and make the determination that complaint disclosure was warranted.”

NBC 7 was finally able to reach someone at Superior Pools through the company’s main email address. The person who responded would not tell us who they were, but they did send a lengthy email response, generally blaming COVID, inflation and staffing issues for permanently closing their doors on Dec. 21. The email is below:

In a follow-up email, Superior Pools said they “still have over $100,000 we are trying to collect from contractors and homeowners to put toward jobs that are underwater.” The company mentioned Giles “still has $25,000 left on contract, covering pavers, tile, electrical and pebble. Should be enough to cover or be close to the contract.” 

But Giles said he’s not buying it and will never trust anything the company has to say: “It’s over. We’re all mad as hell.”

It's over. We're all mad as hell.

David Giles

The company also claimed someone was in contact with Vaughan “almost every day,” something she denies.

“I could not [pinpoint] Josh to come to my house," Vaughan said. "It seemed like he was running.”

Superior Pools also said Vaughan's pool would be finished by the first week of February, but that didn’t happen.

As for Cox, the company said it didn’t know who he is, despite the signed contract and payments he made to the company.

“We can accept the truth," Cox said. "We just need to hear it."

So what can consumers do to protect themselves when taking on an expensive pool project?

  • Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Check them out on the CSLB’s website
  • Never pay more than 10% or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment
  • Make sure the contract has a payment schedule and only pay for completed work. and for supplies and materials already delivered
  • Any changes to the contract should be done with a change order and signed by both parties, regardless if there is a price change
  • Consumers may want to consider requiring a bond for the individual project that would kick in should the company falter for whatever reason. Going that route eliminates the maximum down-payment rule, however

CSLB said to contact it right away and file a complaint the moment a large-scale home improvement project deviates from the contract and the issue can’t be resolved with the contractor

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