Plumber charged man $35,000 in repairs expert said he didn’t need – NBC Los Angeles

When Vincent Estrada's hot water went out, he needed help immediately.

He called Rapid Plumbing of Culver City. Workers came to his house and told him he needed a new water heater. After another inspection, they said they needed to flush Estrada's main sewer line.

The bill: more than $17,000. Estrada was shocked but desperate, so he paid for it.

“I said it was OK to do the work, improve my drainage or whatever,” he said.

But the next day, after the work was completed, Estrada's bathtub was clogged with water. He called Rapid Plumbing again. The company told him further repairs were needed. The cost: another $18,000.

“It’s far too much, I know that. But they had me, especially on the second day,” he said.

Estrada couldn't afford it, so Rapid Plumbing got him a loan through Synchrony Bank.

Looking back, Estrada regrets it.

“Wow, that was a big mistake,” he said.

Plumber Arnie Rodio agrees. He is considered an expert in this field; He helps write plumbing regulations for the state. He believes the most Estrada needed was a new water heater.

But Rodio said even that wasn't up to code — he found at least five violations. He said Rapid Plumbing failed to properly install the water heater, obtain permits and perform required inspections.

As for all of Rapid Plumbing's other work, Rodio believes it wasn't necessary due to the age of the house. And even if they had to, they would have overcharged Estrada, he said.

“The work takes less than a few hours and the materials cost a few hundred dollars. Yeah, it’s crazy,” he said.

Estrada is not alone. Rapid Plumbing has dozens of complaints online, with some customers calling the company “liars and scammers” and “rude and incompetent.”

“It gives us a really, really bad reputation. A really, really bad name,” Rodio said.

Rapid Plumbing did not return calls from the I-Team regarding Estrada's repairs. But recently the poorly installed water heater was replaced with a new one.

And after the I-Team intervened, Estrada disputed the charge with his credit card company, and the company, along with Synchrony Bank, which gave him the loan, wiped out Estrada's debt.

Synchrony Bank did not respond to the I-Team's request for comment.

Estrada ended up paying Rapid Plumbing $5,000 for the new water heater, a huge difference from the $35,000 Rapid Plumbing had originally charged him.

“To be honest, I just want to put this nightmare behind me,” he said.

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