Unfinished pools leave San Antonio families drowning in debt

Three San Antonio families were hoping to make a splash earlier this summer with a new backyard pool are now sinking financially.

SAN ANTONIO — Navy veteran Kerry Williams said she paid half the money for her pool and patio a year ago. All she has is a muddy hole.

“It’s just the pit of despair and sadness,” said Williams as she looked from her porch out over the large hole in her backyard.

“I did my due diligence,” Williams said of the contractor she hired. “I researched him. I look him up. I checked everything.”

It is a similar story for Tony Moya. He has what he calls his debt pit instead of a pool and patio.

“We already got this loan,” he said. “We’re paying for it. We’re paying interest on it. All we got is this hole, nothing has been done.”

Cory and Michael Sessions have a trench they refer to as the money pit instead of a pool to celebrate Michael’s retirement from the Air Force.

“It’s a lot of second-guessing,” Cory said. “Like did I make the right decision?”

All these families hired Steve Theis of Elevated Outdoor Design to build them pools. The contract states the projects take no longer than 45 days once equipment has been brought onto the customer’s property unless the customer makes changes. All three families said they did not make any changes. 

Williams has been waiting almost a year for her pool, the Sessions and Moya, almost 4 months. Each said they paid Theis about half the cost by the time digging started:  $46,000 for Williams, $43,000 for Moya. and $31,000 for the Sessions for a total of $120,000. They say they each used a combination of savings and loans in hopes of spending summers swimming, but there were a lot of excuses why their respective project could not be completed.

“Some of the delays were family members had COVID, family members had flu, crew had COVID, crew had flu,” Williams said.

“Something happened with the equipment or one of his employees was sick or he had gotten COVID,” said Cory. “It was always something with him.”

Williams said she always paid with a check and was unable to get any money back. Sessions and Moya made two payments with a credit card. They are disputing those charges in hopes of recovering some of their money. Then they said Theis requested their last payments be made differently.

“He stated he needed a check instead of the credit cards that we’d used in times past and I was kind of like why?,” Michael said. “That’s when he told me something about the credit card fees are higher.”

“As far as the check goes, my bank said sorry, you wrote a check not much we can do for you,” Moya said.

“The banking institution is like no, you wrote a check,” Michael said. “We can’t retrieve those funds.”

They said they got an email from Theis stating in part:  “At this point I am at a standstill because I do not have the revenue to continue because I can’t close the project for numerous reasons.” It also said he is working with his accountant to figure out additional funds.

“This is getting fishy,” Williams said.

“At that point, I freaked out,” said Moya. “I’m like great.”

KENS 5 reached out to Thesis by phone and email. He emailed back stating “This has been a very difficult time and I am working through it the best that I can but please allow me to see what is in the best interest of not only myself but the customers are contracted to find the best resolution.”

Each family said they received another email from Theis to customers stating he applied for two long-term loans from the government and he would be starting a return process as soon as he has funds. Moya said he did receive a $5,000 refund, but that is just a fraction of the $46,000 he paid. A review of the contract shows there are no provisions for refunds. 

Now, instead of a pool the families have a bottomless money pit as they try to figure out if they should spend more money with a different company to complete the project or fill in their holes.

“This is where I kind of started getting irked,” Michael said. “Because we had nothing to show for it.”

The Better Business Bureau revoked Elevated Outdoors Design’s accreditation and the business has an F rating. A KENS 5 search of court documents shows in 2019 Rockstar Remolding and Diamond Decks sued Theis for posting its images of decks to his Facebook page in an effort to get contracts. That case was settled out of court. Theis also has a judgment from this year to pay American Express $71,000 after defaulting on his business credit card in April. 

“I’ve been taken advantage of,” Michael said. “There was kind of like a shock. Then I think I was even more irritated and irked when my wife starts feeling guilty because she wanted a pool in her backyard.”

“I’ve been killing myself,” Moya said “I feel so guilty.”

The families said they just want Theis and Elevated Outdoor Design to stop promising pools and leaving families drowning in debt instead.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Texas Attorney General’s Office if you have had a similar experience with a contractor.