What Goes On Behind the Cameras at Home Makeover Shows?

Some homeowners claimed that they were promised a dream home if a crew renovated their homes for television. Some homeowners claimed that they were promised a dream house if a crew remodeled their homes for TV. However, the lawsuits they filed later revealed a different story. These shows gained additional popularity due to the rise of binge-watching and home improvement projects. However, there have been whispers of incompetence and negligence as well as poor construction. Many former contestants from such shows claim they were promised a dream home, but ended up with a nightmare construction project. Court documents show that at least 12 lawsuits were settled without going to court. Their details are kept secret by strict confidentiality agreements. Across social media platforms like Instagram, the number of public complaints made online is significantly higher.In Las Vegas, Mindy and Paul King appeared on “Property Brothers” in 2019, and are currently suing the production company that creates the program for HGTV for fraud, misrepresentation and faulty workmanship, which they say left their home riddled with code violations as well as safety and health hazards.In North Carolina, Deena Murphy and Tim Sullivan appeared on HGTV’s “Love It or List It” in 2016, then were also sued after suing the producer and contractor of that show said there was a breach of contract.ImageBristol Marunde, left, and Aubrey Marunde, hosts of “Flip or Flop Las Vegas” on HGTV, shown in a shot from the show. The first season featured the home of Billi and Brent Hawthorne. The first season of the program featured the home of Billi Dunning, Brent Hawthorne and their family. King in Las Vegas stated that she wanted to appear on Property Brothers, led by twin brothers Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott. She and her husband were promised high-end furnishings and fixtures at bargain prices. The couple sued Cineflix Media, the Canadian production company behind “Property Brothers”, and their contractor Villa Construction. They claim that they received a house with serious structural and electrical problems. And if things go wrong, they usually aren’t allowed to publicly complain: Contracts bind homeowners to strict confidentiality, even preventing them (at least theoretically) from speaking about the show to friends or family.Networks like HGTV purchase distribution rights from the production companies, and celebrity hosts often own a stake in their programs (the Scott brothers acquired brand and intellectual property rights to “Property Brothers” in 2019), but it is the production companies that call the shots on the ground.ImageIn the King’s four-bedroom ranch-style home in Las Vegas, doors do not fit properly into frames, there are plumbing and electrical issues, and an improperly installed bar sink has crashed through its frame.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesAs on most home renovation shows, the Kings were mostly kept at arm’s length while a crew worked, then brought back in for a final reveal. They claimed that they saw problems as soon as they were shown the finished product. Ms. King stated that they were instructed to reshoot it multiple times, at least four times, while pretending excitement. Four other contestants from home renovation shows have filed lawsuits against production companies and were interviewed for this story. They also shared similar stories of abusive coaching. The Kings’ complaints were mostly cosmetic. Others were more serious. They claim that electrical work was done without proper permits and that the gas line to the stove was not properly installed. The Kings claim that the stove’s gas line was not properly installed and that the dishwasher was not equipped with an air gap. This prevents contaminated water from leaking back into the water supply. They no longer use either appliance.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York TimesThe Kings are now pursuing a Chapter 40 complaint, which is the first step required by Nevada state law in construction disputes, intended to avoid litigation by offering contractors a last chance to make repairs.The Kings initially asked for $1,477,500 in reparations, and their complaint to the Nevada State Contractors Board listed more than 90 things wrong with their house. The contractors board found only 10 problems in the house, at an estimated cost of $94,672. It ordered Villa Construction to fix them. Cineflix maintains that the Kings then denied the contractor access to the home (the Kings dispute this), and in a statement emailed to The New York Times, said the couple were disseminating misleading information.Image”We’re trapped. The house is packed full of code violations, so we can’t just bail,” Paul King said.Credit…Bridget Bennett for The New York Times”This is an obvious attempt by the Kings to garner attention and financial gain while the matter is still before the courts,” their statement read. “Cineflix, Villa Construction are required to respond to the Chapter 40 notice. This will determine the next steps. Although we disagree with some of the deficiencies, our commitment to resolving this Chapter 40 claim remains strong.” HGTV stated that they “want homeowners featured in our series” and that they included homeowners in the planning process. They also made sure that homeowners were informed about who would be participating in their renovation in a statement sent to The Times. The statement continued, “The homeowners and contractors have agreed on the business relationship and contractual arrangements for the renovations.” “When we learn about a business dispute, our recommendation is to encourage homeowners and contractors to work together to solve the problem.” Some contestants who file suit find that legal action can be a double-edged sword. Countersuits are a real threat. ImageDeena Murphy, Tim Sullivan and a host of other guests appeared on Season 12 HGTV’s “Love It or List It.” This shot was taken from the show. They were sued for faulty workmanship in their North Carolina home. After they settled, they were also sued for libel and slander. Deena Murphy, Tim Sullivan and others, who appeared on HGTV’s “Love It or List It” in 2016, sued them for breach of contract. They claimed that faulty workmanship had “irreparably damaged” their North Carolina home, after they had spent $140,000 of their own funds. According to court documents they settled but were still subject to a lawsuit for libel and slander. The case was eventually dismissed by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The terms of the settlement are confidential and Mr. Sullivan declined to interview him. Billi Dunning and Brent Hawthorne, a Nevada couple, were also sued in a 2018 lawsuit against Flip or Flop Las Vegas. According to court documents, the lawyers for the hosts of the program, Bristol and Aubrey Marunde claimed that Ms. Dunning had violated the confidentiality clause of their settlement agreement. They were awarded $50,000 and a repurchase value of approximately $284,000 for the house in question. Ms. Dunning, Mr. Hawthorne declined to be interviewed. According to court documents, Bristol and Aubrey Marunde, lawyers for the hosts, claimed that Ms. Dunning, and Mr. Hawthorne, had violated the confidentiality provision of their settlement agreement. They were awarded $50,000 and a repurchase price of approximately $284,000 for the home in question. Ryan Ellis, a lawyer representing the Kings, stated that it doesn’t matter what was promised or put on the air. It all boils down to the contract. It all comes down to the contract. Rosier said she signed up for the show because she was promised an attached garage so her son Steven, who is quadriplegic, could move from her car into the house without the need for a ramp. However, Ms. Rosier, who works as a collections representative at UPS, claims she was only given one hour to sign the contract. She also alleges numerous problems with the construction. The family’s episode aired in 2004. A crew from “Renovate My Family”, filmed the episode and leveled the backyard and barn of the family. They then built bedrooms in the basement for the two daughters. The new washing machine did not have a drain. Oak cabinets were used as pressboard. The family’s aboveground pool with a wraparound deck that Mr. Rosier had built three years prior to the lawsuit was replaced by an inground pool that they couldn’t afford. “But we didn’t know what we were signing.” “But we didn’t know what we were signing.” The Rosiers claimed that the home was “virtually inhabitable” and required repairs of more than $250,000. The Rosiers’ lawsuit claimed that the home was left “virtually uninhabitable” and required repairs in excess of $250,000. “You’re not likely talking about seven figures. He said that the fight is likely in the low hundreds. Rocket Science Laboratories, who were named in the suit as producers, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009, and then liquidated their assets. FOX Broadcasting declined to comment. The Rosiers, who still reside in the house, stated that they have not been able to raise the funds necessary to repair the damage. King, an executive recruiter, said that he and his wife are lucky to be able afford the legal fees and other financial losses. They believe their home is unsafe and cannot move. He said that the house was full of code violations and they can’t just bail.” “What they did was create a nice studio to film their show.” Subscribe here for weekly email updates about residential real estate news. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.