Homeowners conned into paying thousands for unnecessary sewer line repairs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (KRDO) — A sophisticated plumbing system in Southern Colorado is preying on people in need of sewer inspections, and it could cost victims thousands of dollars.
Amid a housing boom, there are many opportunities for rogue companies to make a profit. Some even show fake customer images of someone else’s sewer line, painting a dangerous picture of sewage seeping into gardens where children play.
Jami Becka recently bought a house in Aurora. Her family hired Mainline Services for a routine sewer inspection. The inspection revealed that roots were growing in the line.
“Roots find water. So eventually they will grow within those joint connections and will be some roots,” said Melissa Gaines, the regional director at Mainline Services. “What are you doing? Do you need a full-line replacement because that’s happening? No, it’s been going on for ages. That’s how the line was built. What you’re doing is cleaning.”
Because Mainline Services only offers inspections and does not perform repairs, Gaines advised Becka to call around for a sewer cleaning quote.
“They said, ‘Clean it up. It should cost less than $200,'” Becka said.
Becka tells 13 Investigations the plumbing company she called, Mr. Rooter of Northern Colorado, said they should first come to her house to examine their own sewer. After the inspection, they presented a much different and more distressing situation.
“He came out and did another scoop and said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a part of your sewer line that’s broken,'” Becka said.
According to the estimate provided to Becka, Mr. Rooter of Northern Colorado quoted a total of $8,700 — $2,500 for the cleanup she needed according to the inspection and $6,200 for a sewer replacement.
“Just a real, real big discrepancy,” Becka said.
Becka called Mainline Services back to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. Mainline Services asked if Mr. Rooter from Northern Colorado had videotaped the alleged damage in Becka’s line so they could compare it with their own findings. In an email exchange, the plumbing company told the homeowner that there was no recording of her sewer line. However, mr. Northern Colorado rooter offered to come back to Becka’s house to inspect the line for $299.
Becka refused any work by Mr. Rooter from Northern Colorado. Finally, she came in contact with a company in her area that had cleaned the sewers in an hour. It also cost 58 times less than the original quote of $8,700.
“We paid someone $150 to do it,” Becka said. “I could easily see I was falling prey to this.”
13 Investigations asked mr. Rooter from Northern Colorado on the estimate.
“We have been asked to provide a quote for a sewer problem. As requested, a free estimate was made for the issues identified during the call. We train our service professionals to provide multiple options, including both short-term and long-term solutions to plumbing issues. We have provided the long term options as requested by the client. The work was refused and no plumbing work was performed at the site. We are committed to being experts in our field and providing exceptional service. We want customers to have complete confidence and certainty about their choice of a service professional.”
Scott Talbott | mr. Rooter Denver General Manager
While sewer inspectors are not required to be licensed in the state of Colorado, plumbers do require an active license with the Department of Regulatory Agencies. Records show that the license for Mr. Rooter from Northern Colorado is active. However, the company has been ordered to pay a $1,225 fine and a $1,300 fine for failing to register plumbing apprentices, hiring unlicensed workers, and failing to respond to complaints in a timely manner.
The company has an F rating with the Better business agency for failing to resolve or respond to customer complaints. Several of the 19 complaints filed with the BBB against Mr. Rooter of Northern Colorado, claim the company is behind other similar sewage systems. Customers call the plumbing company quoting up to $20,000 in unnecessary sewer repairs.
mr. Rooter Plumbing is an international franchise with hundreds of locations in the US and Canada. mr. Rooter Plumbing of Colorado Springs is a separate company from Mr. Rooter from Northern Colorado. The Colorado Springs location has a good reputation with the Better Business Bureau. It has an A+ rating.
You can look up plumbing licenses through the Department of Regulatory Agencies. If you don’t get a result for a company, don’t hesitate to ask them if their state license can be listed under a different name. mr. Rooter Plumbing of Colorado Springs is licensed by Ronald Johnson, who oversees Mr. Southern Colorado Rooter Plumbing. State records show Johnson has an active plumbing license through 2023.
It is important for homeowners to take the time to research businesses as the sewer scam is popping up in the Pikes Peak area. Unfortunately, it’s not just one or two companies to watch out for.
“I’ve had three different companies in the past three weeks that I’ve gotten it on,” Gaines said.
Because Mainline Services does not perform repairs, they are in a unique position to detect fraud when called in for a second opinion.
In Becka’s case, Gaines suspects contractors exaggerated real images of her actual sewer. But the deception goes even deeper for others.
“They’ve uploaded fake videos, they’ve given people pictures that aren’t even the rule,” Gaines said, though she didn’t specifically refer to Mr. Rooter. “Sometimes it’s not even the same material.”
Gaines also warns homeowners to watch out for repair people who come door-to-door with a story about your neighbor’s house.
“This was in a retirement home. So he went to every house and offered free inspections,” Gaines said. “Because this happened to this person, we want to check everyone’s line. He offered to do free inspections and if they find something they will give you a payment plan.
Several homeowners had their sewer lines dug and made thousands of dollars in repairs before the Homeowners Association called Mainline Services for a second opinion. According to Gaines, her team examined 20 sewer lines in this particular Colorado Springs neighborhood. They found one house that needed sewage, but no widespread problems.
As time-consuming as it may be, the best way for people to protect themselves from sewer scams is to research companies you want to hire. Don’t let an emergency sewer rush your decision to hire a standing plumber. You can also check local BBB ratings.
If you have a tip or lead that our team should investigate, please email 13Investigates@krdo.com.