“Rogue Plumbers” Plague Chicago


Chicago city officials are warning homeowners about “rogue plumbers” who have been operating out of a building in the Canaryville neighborhood.

At least three different people have run businesses under several different names out of the building, located on the 700-block of West 47th Street, but there’s one thing they have in common: There are no business licenses registered to that address, and the plumbers in question face allegations of code violations and consumer fraud. Businesses at that location have been fined approximately $167,000 since 2008.

“In this particular case, we have fines for three different individuals using two different business names, and this same address has a pattern of bad practices,” Maria Guerra Lapacek, a commissioner for the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, told the local ABC affiliate July 23.

In one recent case, resident John McCartney paid $10,000 for an emergency plumbing repair to a company called Wagner and Sons. But when he filed a claim, his insurance company said the repair should have cost only $1,800.

It’s easy for homeowners to end up overpaying for plumbing work, especially since they’re rarely educated as to their options. There are conventional repairs, trenchless repairs, different types of pipe and more. And it can be difficult to sort out how prices compare among those options; cured in place pipe, for example, has the same 50-year lifespan as a normal pipe, costs more, but is also faster (and therefore cheaper) to install.

Details of plumbing methods aside, homeowners often don’t scrutinize contracts when they’re dealing with a backed-up sewer line or water that’s been shut off.

Last year, Olive Dilworth also hired Wagner and Sons, paying $17,800 in order to get water service restored to her home — a repair her insurance only ended up covering $13,000 of. The contract she received, however, was written up as being with “Loews and Company.”

Both McCartney and Dilworth were given paperwork branded with the distinctive logo of home improvement giant Lowes, but there was no association between the store and the repairs.

“What these rogue companies do is change names. And sometimes they don’t even give you there real name, certainly not a real corporate name that’s registered or licensed,” Lapacek explained.

The BACF is encouraging any homeowners who may have been defrauded to file a report. Homeowners should also use listings on the city website to confirm that any plumbers they are considering hiring have been properly licensed, officials say.

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