A popular online platform for consumers searching for home improvement contractors has removed the page of a business exposed in a recent NBC10 Boston investigation.
As we reported in our “To Catch a Contractor” investigative series, the owner of Xtreme Living Pools and Construction, Steve Docchio, has a criminal history in three New England states and owes consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars from civil judgments.
When we confronted Docchio about the long list of lawsuits, criminal charges and consumer complaints, he called the allegations “false.”
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“For a journalist, you don’t know the truth,” Docchio said as he left a Rhode Island courthouse. He did not elaborate when we asked follow-up questions.
Despite the troubling record, Docchio’s business had nearly a 5-star rating on Houzz. It also featured two “Best of Houzz” awards in 2020 and 2021.
We inquired about Docchio’s page and asked Houzz how contractors are vetted and how reviews are screened to make sure they are legitimate.
The most recent eight reviews for Xtreme Living from January through May of 2021 were all rated a perfect five stars. None of the reviewers had names associated with their posts. The two most recent reviews on May 20, 2021 and May 22, 2021 came from the same account number.
“We take situations like this seriously and are currently reviewing this,” a Houzz spokesperson said in response to our questions. Shortly after that, a search of the page only revealed the message, “The professional you requested was not found.”
Houzz told us it has robust controls in place to ensure reviews are valid, and that reviews are flagged if they don’t meet certain guidelines.
“We strive to deliver an outstanding experience for both homeowners and home professionals by providing a platform for homeowners to connect with quality professionals for their projects,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Some homeowners we interviewed told us they first contacted Docchio because of positive reviews they found online.
Before Houzz removed the page from its site, Mary Kate Callahan had posted a one-star review about her experience with Docchio.
She told us a project to finish some basement space was supposed to take two weeks and stretched into seven months. Callahan said the work was further delayed when she learned Docchio had not applied for the required permits from the town.
“Posting a negative review felt like our only recourse when it became apparent that he was never going to come back,” Callahan said. “I posted it in hopes that others did not make the same mistake that we did.”