‘Love It or List It Lawsuit’: Homeowners Sued the HGTV Show — Here’s Why

love it or list it hgtv lawsuit

Getty "Love It or List It" hosts Hilary Farr and David Visentin.

The HGTV show “Love It or List It” was sued by North Carolina homeowners Deena Murphy and Tim Sullivan after they accused the show’s production company, Big Coat TV, of breach of contract. The lawsuit filed in Chatham County was eventually settled, according to court records. A countersuit filed against Murphy and Sullivan by Big Coat TV was also settled, court records viewed by Heavy show.

The episode featuring Murphy and Sullivan aired in 2016 after “Love It or List It” filmed several episodes in the U.S. Previously, the show had focused on homes in Canada, specifically, the Toronto area, where hosts Hilary Farr and David Visentin live. Court records show the two sides agreed to have the case dismissed after reaching an undisclosed settlement agreement. The countersuit filed against Murphy and Sullivan was also dismissed as part of the settlement, records show.

The Homeowners Also Accused ‘Love It or List It’ of Faulty Workmanship & Unauthorized Retention of Funds, While the Production Company Countersued, Accusing Murphy & Sullivan of Libel, Slander & Product Disparagement

'Love It Or List It' LawsuitCBS2's Emily Smith reports.2016-04-21T00:50:06Z

Murphy and Sullivan appeared on “Love It or List It” to have their rental property renovated, according to the lawsuit. According to ABC News, the pair put $140,000 of their own money into the project. But they said the company hired by the producers of the HGTV show, Aaron Fitz Construction, left the home “irreparably damaged.”

According to the lawsuit, the floor was damaged, some windows were painted shut and they contractors used “low quality” and “inferior products during the work done on the home. They said $65,000 of the money they set aside for the work was misused by the production company and added. Their lawyers wrote in the lawsuit complaint that the producers had the “incentive” “to make decisions that favor the television show but not the homeowners,” according to ABC News.

Episode 152 of “Love It or List It” featured Sullivan and Murphy. In the end, the homeowners decided to list the home, but said in the lawsuit they were not able to put it on the market because of issues related to the renovations done for the show, ABC News reported. After the lawsuit was filed, “Love It or List It” wrote on its Facebook page, “Thank you for your posts. We truly appreciate our fans and your comments. In regards to the recent legal issue, Love It Or List It has been in production for over 7 years, successfully completing more than 250 shows that feature renovations. We believe that this claim is in no way supported by any of the facts of the case, and we will be defending ourselves vigorously in this matter. We want to thank our incredible crews for their passion and commitment that they put into every show.”

Sullivan told CBS News, “We took out a substantial loan for this and you know, we put in some of our own money. … We were excited for the home.” Murphy added, “We feel stressed out, we feel sad, really disappointed.” Their attorney, Jim White, told CBS News, “For the homeowners here, this is a renovation project, and for Big Coat, it’s a TV show. What we allege is that Big Coat hired contractors who did substandard work.”

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According to CNN, the lawsuit said Big Coat TV paid $85,000 to the contractor and kept the rest of the $140,000. “Instead, Big Coat hired its own subcontractors and supervised their work itself, acting as an unlicensed general contractor, the suit states. “The result of this improper conduct was the very kind of substandard work the statutes are designed to protect consumers against. The floors of the Plaintiffs’ house were destroyed by Big Coat’s negligence, and the work that was done was generally performed badly, for the most part using inexpensive, low quality materials,” CNN reported.

The lawsuit said, according to BuzzFeed News, “Its incentive is to make decisions that favor the television show but not the homeowners. That almost necessarily leads to disasters such as the construction project here.” According to BuzzFeed, the lawsuit said an “erratic dark stain” damaged the floor’s natural finish, duct work was left unfinished and “low-grade industrial” carpet was put over floors.

CNN added that the homeowners said in the lawsuit, the “business model is bizarre – homeowners pay large sums of money to Big Coat, who then produce a cable television series called ‘Love It or List It’ which offers a dramatized version of the renovation of their home.” They also said the person who appeared on the show as the lead contractor was an actor, and others, including the designer and a realtor, were also actors. They said Visentin didn’t have a realtor’s license in North Carolina so he couldn’t do any of the actual work himself. Sullivan and Murphy sought $750,000 in damages.

The legal battle ended up in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, according to online records viewed by Heavy. That happened after the production company countersued the homeowners and a judge ruled in the show’s favor on some parts of the lawsuit, which accused Murphy and Sullivan of libel, slander and product disparagement. The homeowners appealed the judge’s ruling, but before the appellate court could make a decision on the appeal, the two sides settled. The case was dismissed on April 24, 2017, court records show. The terms of the settlement were not made public by either side.

Other HGTV Shows Have Faced Lawsuits & Legal Issues

INVESTIGATIVE: Vegas homeowners sue 'Property Brothers' show for faulty remodelA Las Vegas couple's appearance on a popular reality show has convinced them of a harsh reality: Things aren't always as rosy as they seem on TV. In this case, it's a home remodel on HGTV. Full story on KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas: ktnv.com/13-investigates/homeowners-in-las-vegas-sue-property-brothers-show2021-03-08T15:13:56Z

“Love It or List It” isn’t the only HGTV show to face legal issues over the years. Cineflix, the production company for “The Property Brothers,” was sued by homeowners in Nevada in 2021, according to court records obtained by Heavy. The Clark County lawsuit was filed by Mindy and Paul King, who answered a casting call by the production company behind “The Property Brothers” in 2018, court records show.

The Kings also sued a local contractor who did work as part of the project. The couple accused the show’s producers and the contractor of poor workmanship and code violations Cineflix and “The Property Brothers” have denied any wrongdoing and the lawsuit remains open. A spokesperson for the show’s stars, Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott, said in a statement, “The Kings have rejected … reasonable attempts to remedy the remaining punch list items in the Kings’ home. Instead, in what appears to be an attempt to secure a substantial monetary settlement, the Kings have engaged in a negative publicity campaign against the Brothers. It is unfortunate that the Kings have resorted to such conduct.”

“Good Bones: Risky Business” host Mina Starsiak Hawk revealed in September 2022 that she is being sued by a contractor in connection to a project that aired on the HGTV show. In 2020, the hosts of “Windy City Rehab” were sued by homeowners accusing them of fraud, according to People.

And in 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settled with Magnolia Homes, Chip and Joanna Gaines company, paid a civil penalty of $40,000 and agreed to spend $160,000 for lead paint abatement in homes they worked on in Waco, Texas, after they were accused of violating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule). The EPA said in a statement, “It’s important that consumers and contractors understand that improper home renovation can expose residents and workers to hazardous lead dust. Through this settlement, Magnolia is putting in place safeguards to ensure the safety of its renovation work and making meaningful contributions toward the protection of children and vulnerable communities from exposure to lead-based paint.”

In 2022, HGTV told The New York Times in a statement the network wants, “homeowners who are featured in our series to be happy.” They said homeowners are included in the planning process and are told who will take part in the renovation work. The statement added, “The business relationship and contractual agreements for the renovations are agreed upon by the homeowners and the contractors. When we learn of a business dispute, we encourage the contractors and homeowners to work together to resolve the issue.”

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