A pool of water in the middle of the kitchen is not exactly what Rhonda McDaniel and her mother wanted for Christmas last year.
They didn't want the headache of putting thousands of dollars down to get it fixed only to not have any work done, either. Unfortunately, for McDaniel, that's exactly what happened last December at their Bowie home.
When Rhonda called Jermaine Sturge from Super Sturge Drain and Plumbing, a company she had worked with before, they settled on a $6,000 bill to get the problem fixed. He asked for a down payment of $3,500, which they paid.
Several days later, they canceled he contract and asked for the money back. It never came.
"He said 'I don't have your refund now, but I'll bring it," McDaniel said. "He never brought it."
Four months passed. No money ever came back. That's when 7 On Your Side stepped in and made a call to Sturge, who told us that he wasn't bringing their money on a day he promised to do so.
That's when Rhonda and her mother filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the state of Maryland. When they did that, ABC 7 and the McDaniels learned that Sturge's company, which also goes by Surge Sewer, Drain and Plumbing, isn't licensed. That led to a $250 fine and a citation from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
"I feel angry...I feel disappointed," Rhonda said. "It's so easy to do the right thing that to do the wrong thing takes effort."
WSSC spokesperson Lyn Riggins says that Sturge was at one point licensed with the utility to do work, but that license expired in 2011. It's a lesson learned by Rhonda and her mother.
"The thought never occurred to any of us to ask if he was licensed," Nell said. Sturge declined repeated requests to tell his side of the story on camera.
Finally, more than four months later, the McDaniels got a special delivery - their $3,500 for plumbing work never completed.
"We had paperwork, but we needed someone to shove a proverbial boot up his butt," Rhonda said.
In the meantime, you can protect yourself from problems like the McDaniels encountered by getting at least three estimates before having work done at your home and to do research on the businesses you're hiring. You can check local businesses out on the D.C. region's BBB website.
The Better Business Bureau also offers this list of tips on how to spot a scam or protect yourself from shady business dealings. You can also report issues to the Maryland Consumer Protection Division, Virginia's Office of Consumer Affairs and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
Riggins also says that you can get inspection and certification reports directly from WSSC by calling (301) 206-4004 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.