Homeowners Sue TV Makeover Shows, Alleging Shoddy Work

A picture of an empty room in a home being renovated.

© Steven Puetzer - The Image Bank / Getty Images

Televised home renovation shows are booming as eye candy for viewers in watching transformations of a home for inspiration. But these transformations don’t always have a happy ending. About a dozen homeowner lawsuits have popped up saying that their made-for-TV transformation ended in more of a nightmare than a dream home.

Often in these shows, a team of contractors is brought in to overhaul a house. But a New York Times article, which interviews several homeowners who have been on these shows, has called out another side of these programs that viewers don’t see: “incompetence, negligence, and shoddy construction.”

In one such case, Mindy and Paul King of Las Vegas are suing HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” alleging fraud, misrepresentation, and faulty workmanship. In the lawsuit, they claim that their home renovation in 2019 was filled with code violations and safety and health hazards. (Drew and Jonathan Scott, the hosts of the show, are not named in the lawsuit.)

The couple’s complaint listed more than 90 things wrong with the house, including electrical work done without proper permitting, an improperly installed gas line for the stove, and a dishwasher installed without an air gap so contaminated water is backing up into it. They also documented numerous cosmetic issues. The Kings initially asked for about $1.477 million in reparations.

However, the Nevada State Contractors Board—which reviews cases prior to litigation to give contractors a chance to make repairs first—identified only 10 problems at an estimated repair cost of $94,672. It ordered the contractor for the show to correct the items.

The producers allege the couple has denied them access to make the fixes and said in a statement to The New York Times that “this is an obvious attempt by the Kings to garner attention and financial gain while the matter is still before the courts.”

Homeowners are usually required to pay the bill for the renovations when appearing on these TV home improvement shows. Any free perks that come with appearing on the show—like free materials--are at the discretion of the show’s producers.

Also, if anything goes wrong with the renovation, the homeowners are not allowed publicly to complain. Contracts bind homeowners to strict confidentiality, The New York Times reports.

During the home’s reveal for TV, the Kings say they had to film the ending at least four times to feign excitement. They said they spotted problems right away with the renovation.

Homeowners who sue also may find they can be countersued. For example, one couple who appeared on HGTV’s “Love It or List It” sued and alleged faulty workmanship on their home’s renovation (which they later settled). But they were also countersued by the show for libel, slander, and product disparagement. That case was eventually dismissed.

HGTV said in a statement to The New York Times that they want homeowners “who are featured in our series to be happy.” Homeowners are included in the planning process, they say. “The business relationship and contractual agreements for the renovations are agreed upon by the homeowners and the contractors,” HGTV said. “When we learn of a business dispute, we encourage the contractors and homeowners to work together to resolve the issue.”