Aqua Pool customers threatened with liens

August 23, 2010 

It's a classic double whammy.

First, their pool builder went out of business, leaving homeowners with gaping holes in their yards. Now they might face property liens because construction suppliers apparently weren't paid, even though homeowners reportedly paid the pool company.

"It makes you wonder, 'What else?' " said Ken Wood, whose worst fears appeared to come true last week when news broke that Aqua Pool & Spa had gone out of business.

He paid more than $35,000 toward a $52,000 solar-heated pool with a multicolored abalone-shell finish and three waterfalls in his Ceres back yard, which he expected to be swimming in by Sept. 7. With no grass and the fence separating his yard from his neighbor's down, he built a makeshift pen in the front for his three dogs.

"My yard looks like it was blown up with dynamite. It's a nightmare, an absolute nightmare," Wood said.

Then he received a notice from a concrete supplier, warning that a $4,000 lien could be recorded against his home if Aqua doesn't pay for the 19 yards of cement used a few weeks ago for Wood's concrete decking.

An employee of Resource Building Materials on Monday said it's standard practice to issue lien warnings, to protect the company. She declined to provide her name, saying a company attorney instructed workers not to comment.

Tony Beavert of Stockton said Resource sent him a similar warning for $2,000 worth of masonry materials. His pool is nearly finished, except for plaster and fittings.

Bryan and Karen Neff of Half Moon Bay said a concrete company sent them a notice of a pending $6,000 lien. And Friday, they got another from a pool cover company saying they owe $5,500 -- despite having paid Aqua for the cover months ago. And Aqua never finished the deck or landscaping, they said in an e-mail.

"We've already spent a fortune and now I'm being told the vendors can foreclose on our homes if we don't double-pay," the Neffs' note said. "These guys are scum-sucking pigs. They knew what was up but continued to screw everyone."

The Bee has been unable to reach Aqua owners or officers since the company closed its glitzy showroom near Manteca last week, putting 200 employees out of work. The company started in Modesto in 1988 and built thousands of pools across Northern California, but it went dark when a $3 million debt was called in by Pacific State Bank, which itself went out of business Friday.

Reports of unfinished work continue to roll in. Doug Higgs of Discovery Bay said his pool was under warranty, so Aqua drained it two weeks ago but crews never finished repairing plaster cracks. "Now I'm lost on what to do," Higgs said.

Some callers said they are looking into class-action legal options.

Wood said he selected Aqua largely based on its reputation.

"They tell you they're financially stable and you feel safe and secure because they are so big," Wood said. "They tell you, 'We'll be around for years' and they put your mind at ease. They played everybody."

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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