3 On Your Side

Phoenix homeowner has $67K plumbing bill

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(Source: 3TV) (Source: 3TV)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

James Fisher is 74 years old and lives alone in his Phoenix home. 

"I'm retired, I live by myself, I have a medical condition," he said.

And unfortunately, Fisher said his house had a plumbing problem in his bathrooms.

"It [water] was backing up about 3 or 4 inches in the shower and then it was coming back up out of the toilet's wax ring," he explained.

So, Fisher contacted a company called The Sunny Plumber which came to Fisher's home that afternoon and after inspecting the problem, employees claimed Fisher had a major issue with his sewer line.

"They're so old and everything that they were cracked and rotten in the inside," he said.

According to Fisher, a representative with The Sunny Plumber indicated his sewer line had to be replaced and Fisher said at 11 o'clock at night, after being at his home for nearly six hours, The Sunny Plumber said if he wanted his problem fixed they needed to be paid to start the job.

"Originally, it was supposed to be 700 and some dollars to root out the line," Fisher said. "It went from $29,000 to $67,000."

That's right, $67,226. Fisher showed us a copy of that check that he made out. He claims he wanted to get other estimates because the amount was so high, but he didn't. 

"By the time that evening was over at 11:30, when I said I have to go get some rest, my back is screaming at me and he said, 'You got to sign this paperwork now. We need it so we can start early in the morning.'"

Fisher tells 3 On Your Side he went ahead and handed over that $67,000 check.

Eighty-eight-year-old Alice Keller said she had a similar experience with the same plumbing company and wrote to 3 On Your Side after seeing a previous report on the company.

"I suppose they knew they could get me to be frightened and agree to it," she said.

Keller said employees with The Sunny Plumber were at her house because of a maintenance agreement she had with them. After a routine maintenance inspection, she said The Sunny Plumber informed her that her sewer line was in bad shape and needed to be replaced at a cost of more than $21,000.

Keller said she reluctantly agreed even though she said she wasn't experiencing any plumbing problems.

"Working fine as far as I knew," she said. "They were the ones that came and said it was going to back up."

The Sunny Plumber sent us a five-page response explaining the repairs and the costs. In regard to Keller's $21,000 repair, The Sunny Plumber says, "...her lines were in very bad condition." But they also said her complaint, "...that she had to replace her plumbing immediately is false."

They also said their contracts include a three-day right-to-cancel clause. However, in both cases, Fisher and Keller said their work started almost immediately.

The Sunny Plumber said it also sent back a check for a $1,077 in hopes of satisfying Keller.

As for Fisher's $67,226 repair? The company provided 3 On Your Side telephone recordings where they say he approved two separate payments. One for plumbing located in back of his home and one for the front of his home.

One payment was for $29,617 and in a separate conversation, he approved the second amount for $27,336. In the recording you hear:

“Did our representative explain the recommended work and go over all of your options?"

"Yes," Fisher replied.

"And do you approve the work to be done for $27,336?"

"Yes."

"Do you have any questions or concerns before we start the work?"

"No."

Fisher said to this day, he doesn't understand how a plumbing job went from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, to ultimately $67,226.

"I get a little upset and disturbed and emotional about this," Fisher said. "I just feel like I'm used, abused and thrown away as trash."

The Sunny Plumber maintains their pricing is fair and appropriate and the company does have another recording indicating that Fisher wants and approves that $67,226 job.

When it comes to any kind of home repair, it’s always a good idea to get three or four estimates before moving ahead. 

Read The Sunny Plumber’s five-page unedited response to 3 On Your Side below.

[PDF: Comments from The Sunny Plumber]

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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