Despite an advanced degree in English, I fear I lack the words to describe completely the utter incompetence exhibited by Victor Ungaro in the work he did on our home. And please understand: in this instance, I use the term work loosely.
We had a couple of things in need of repair at our house. A friend suggested we call Ungaro. The first repair he made, to our garage door, went fine. He then repaired some problems with our electrical panel. So far, so good. He seemed like an OK guy.
Oh, how appearances can deceive.
A couple of weeks later, we had problems with a bathtub that wasnt draining. We called Ungaro. He began a series of repairs that got worse with each passing day. First he snaked the tub; he then tore it out and broke out the concrete surrounding the drain. Then, strangely, he began replacing the interior piping that is, the pipes bringing the water INTO the house. These pipes were certainly candidates for replacement (we had galvanized pipes and hard water a combination ripe for ugliness), and we didnt think it unusual that this was a problem. Shame on us.
Once he had finished the repipe, Ungaro turned on the water and big surprise we had problems again with drainage because we suddenly had more water pressure than wed had in years. Ungaro then convinced us that the drainage lines under the house were crumbling and needed to be replaced. Given that this was something several neighbors in homes of similar age had experienced, we didnt really question the diagnosis. Besides, this was actually related to the reason we called him in the first place.
In short order, the tile in our kitchen and hallway had been cut and ripped out, despite our admonishments that we couldnt get more of that kind of tile and had limited replacement tiles available. Ungaro jackhammered the concrete in the hall, the bathroom, and the kitchen. He ripped out drywall. He tore out every last fixture in both bathrooms despite our explicit instructions that he not touch the bathroom previously untouched and left us without a working toilet for about six days. (You dont even want to know what we had to resort to.) He hadnt dropped off any part of our house, which resulted in a thick layer of concrete and drywall dust settling into everything including both of our noses. He tore up every single plant in the front yard when he trenched for the main water line not just the plants along the trench, but EVERY plant in the yard.
It took a week and a half to convince Ungaro he was fired. He kept claiming that we owed him more money even though hed never kept a tally of his expenses or labor costs. Every day wed ask for the receipts for the items we were supposedly paying for only to be put off. Fortunately, I kept a detailed spreadsheet of every expenditure and payment. In the end, when he claimed we owed him money, I pointed out that in the absence of receipts, as far as I was concerned, the payments I made had gone towards labor. He then began producing receipts that showed he bought the same things multiple times; we finally figured out that he was buying items, giving us the receipts, then returning the merchandise and keeping the store credits for personal use. He even admitted that he couldnt produce a receipt for one item he claimed to have purchased because hed gotten it from a friend whod stolen it from a job site.
Once we finally scraped Ungaro off of our shoes, we found out all kinds of ways wed been extra stupid. First, theres the fact that an unlicensed contractor in California cant charge more than $500 a job for labor AND materials. If we thought suing Ungaro would net us anything, wed do it, but he clearly based his pricing and demands for payment on whatever bills he needed to pay that week. He was also collecting unemployment. Theres certainly no cash to be had on that end.
We also found out that he hadnt vented the toilets or tubs/showers; hed ruined a number of items (plumbing fixtures, finish materials) and installed others incorrectly; he threw new/unused parts into the trash; he left the sewer line uncapped, which resulted in rats invading the house and ruining an antique chair, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, and the stove; he installed the wrong gauge pipe from the water main, so weve had to retrench and replace it; he failed to put in a regulator on the main, leaving a veritable swamp at the edge of our property . . . it goes on and on.
Weve now come to understand that Ungaro ran a standard scam: He kept showing up to do work, which resulted in us feeling obligated to pay him for said work which, unfortunately, we did. We were dumb as bricks, which is our own fault but then again, its always hard to believe that there are people out there as dishonest, incompetent and unscrupulous as Victor Ungaro.
Were now paying to have this work done a second time money we most certainly didnt have even the first time around. There is no monetary recourse to be had against Ungaro. The only thing we can do is try our best to ensure that no one else falls victim to this menace in future.
Id like to be able to say were wiser for this experience, or that weve gained something by having gone through it, but Id be lying. It was horrible, and I hope karma gets Ungaro. Its the only satisfaction we can ever hope for.