The Shady Side Of These HGTV Stars

HGTV has served viewers with non-stop content about home improvement and design since it kicked off in 1994. There's a vicarious appeal, even for those not in the process of purchasing or selling a home, in watching others buy, sell, or re-design properties. The network blossomed to develop hits like "Flip or Flop," "Fixer Upper," "House Hunters," and "Love It Or List It." The list, obviously, goes on and on.

True to the nature of reality TV, things aren't always what they seem. "Love It Or List It" was deemed the fakest, with David Visentin and Hilary Farr showcasing their rivalry over finding a new home or sprucing up the guest's current home. Other shows were accused of being misleading, including "House Hunters" and its international counterpart, which allegedly had younger actors play the buyers instead of the actual clients, who were retirees (per HuffPost). 

But audiences have other issues with the industry at large, especially the popular shows that center around home improvement. Naturally, money lines the pockets of HGTV stars, who continue to make a fortune off of their home improvements being televised. So what gets lost in the process of these renovations? Here's the shady side of HGTV stars.

Tarek El Moussa and Christina Hall and the foreclosed home dilemma

Tarek El Moussa and Christina Hall got hit hard during the housing crisis of 2008 and sold their home to move into a rental with a roommate for $700 a month. But thanks to an investing partner, they were able to purchase their first investment property for $115,000 in Santa Ana, per Realtor, and flip it for $34,000 in earnings. This boon launched "Flip or Flop," their popular HGTV show where they purchased dilapidated homes, fixed them up, and sold them for a profit. But the reason they were able to make money, besides legitimate skill and labor, was that the houses were going for cheap after previous residents were evicted.

"I'll buy any house, any condition, any location as long as I can get it at the right price," El Moussa said in an interview with The Orange County Register. When homes were put up for auction, El Moussa used to drive around the areas in the middle of the night to scout them out. The evictions sometimes led to challenging renovations for the HGTV couple. In one case, a family that was being evicted filled the toilets with cement and broke all the windows. Despite these challenges, they made it work and turned a huge profit to boot. El Moussa has an estimated net worth of $15 million while Hall has an estimated $25 million fortune. Of course, they work hard and have other ventures ("Flip or Flop" ended in 2022), but it's still awkward optics.

The stress of filming took a toll on Christina and Tarek

The rigors of HGTV took a major toll on Tarek El Moussa and Christina Hall's marriage. Not only that, but they were hit with major hurdles, including El Moussa's thyroid cancer diagnosis, per People, and Hall's struggle to conceive through in vitro fertilization. "Like any couple, we had our share of issues," Hall said. "But we went through a lot in a short amount of time."

They were able to conceive their second child, son Brayden, but because of the exhausting schedule of filming "Flip or Flop," Hall didn't get enough time to recuperate. She explained, "I was overwhelmed. The tension between me and Tarek was high." Things hit a really rough patch for the two of them, and Hall added, "We weren't able to properly communicate anymore. It got to the point where we weren't even driving to set together."

Things reached a breaking point between the couple in 2016 when police arrived at their home because of a "possibly suicidal male with a gun," per Us Weekly. Neighbors saw El Moussa run out the back door while Hall followed, crying and visibly upset. A friend of Hall's was there and saw El Moussa take a gun with him. "We had an unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago and the police were called to our house in an abundance of caution," the former couple said in a statement. "There was no violence and no charges were filed."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Chip and Joanna Gaines aren't what they seem

While Chip and Joanna Gaines are all about redesigning homes and creating beautiful spaces, they've gotten some flack over their HGTV hit "Fixer Upper." For one, a previous client wasn't thrilled with all the attention they received after the famous couple worked on their home. Ken and Kelly Downs were featured on an episode, along with their home, cutely dubbed the "Three Little Pigs" house.

After the Gaineses worked on their renovation, a drunk driver hit the Downses' home, with no injuries to anyone, thankfully. "It's like the Wild West here. There's been a lot of commotion coming from the bars and the store across the street," Kelly Downs told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "It's been a problem from the beginning. We've lived here a year and a half and we feel deceived by the city of Waco and Magnolia Realty." Neighbors were also upset because taxes hiked up after all the attention on the neighborhood. "This is a Fixer Upper gone bad," she said.

This wasn't the only negative feedback that the Gaines have received. As of 2016, they belonged to Antioch Community Church, and a BuzzFeed article revealed that pastor Jimmy Seibert preached against same-sex marriage. While the news created a lot of well-earned flack, Joanna spoke up to The Hollywood Reporter, saying: "The accusations that get thrown at you, like you're a racist or you don't like people in the LGBTQ community, that's the stuff that really eats my lunch — because it's so far from who we really are."

Chip Gaines got sued by former partners

Chip Gaines had some unexpected visitors from his past that caused contention while he and wife Joanna Gaines were becoming HGTV superstars thanks to "Fixer Upper." Chip's former partners at Magnolia Real Estate Company, John Lewis and Richard Clark, sued him for $1 million in 2017. They claimed that back in 2013, the TV personality bought each of them out for $2,500 and failed to notify them about the couple's HGTV deal. People notes that Chip announced his and Joanna's exciting news about the show "Fixer Upper" literally two days after the buyout.

His business partners felt that Chip had been misleading about buying them out. "There was a sense of betrayal and frustration," Lewis explained, noting that after their business ties were severed, Chip dropped all communication with them. "I knew and understood at that point that he had gotten all he could out of our relationship and was done with it," Lewis said to People. "[It] was already at that point of realization that our relationship was essentially over that I discovered that he had defrauded me and Rick." 

Chip wasn't taking this lying down and jumped on Twitter to say: "Fyi: Ive had the same cell # 15 yrs.. same email for 20 yrs. No one called or emailed? 4 years later 'friends' reach out via lawsuit.. humm." The case was later thrown out, the Waco Tribune-Herald noted, leaving the fixer uppers to continue fixing things up in peace.

Nicole Curtis and her history of lawsuits

Nicole Curtis became an HGTV darling thanks to her hit "Rehab Addict," where she, true to the show's name, restores old homes to their former glory. However, Curtis has faced a few legal bumps along the way and was accused of abandoning projects after starting them.

In 2015, CBS Minnesota reported that one of her home purchases in north Minneapolis was left unrestored for three years. In her defense, she said that the city didn't close the sale for over a year, but additional problems arose when her contractor, John Jepsen, claimed that she didn't pay him the $25,000 that he was owed. "It's a considerable amount of money that we're owed and we just want to be paid for the work we did," he said. Curtis, for her part, denied this and claimed that Jepsen was paid in full. Curtis said that these kinds of things don't phase her because legal action is often part of home renovation businesses.

In 2021, Curtis came out with a new version of her show, "Rehab Addict Rescue," and got into a lawsuit with the City of Detroit Land Bank (DLBA) over contested ownership of a home on Grand Boulevard, per People. Curtis had purchased the house privately in 2017 for $17,000 "sight unseen." However, in 2018, the DLBA claimed that the property was theirs. By this point Curtis had invested about $60,000 into the property. In May 2021, a judge ruled in her favor and she got to continue restoring the property.

HGTV's polygamist show didn't sit well with fans

Of all the quirky pitches for HGTV shows, "House Full of Spouses" might have been one of the more unique ones. The pilot episode aired in April 2019, featuring couple Rachel and Greg Hansen as they worked on houses for the polygamist Darger family (also seen on "Sister Wives") according to Country Living. Since their clients boasted large families, the Hansens' focus was to maximize bedrooms for children, design spacious family rooms, and as the description read, "[carve] out master suites for multiple wives."

Some fans were horrified at the prospect of an HGTV show that promoted polygamy, a practice that is illegal in the United States, per Reuters. Interestingly though, Rachel grew up in a polygamist family, as Newsweek notes, and so the prospect of renovating homes to suit these needs was familiar to her.

The pilot episode was mostly met with skepticism on Twitter, with someone tweeting: "Hey [HGTV], what the hell is 'House Full of Spouses'? Really? You're supporting/legitimizing polygamy with a renovation show?" If people were into it, it was more because of the spectacle of it all. "YALL [HGTV] has a show called House Full of Spouses where they renovate/find homes for- you guessed it, POLYGAMIST FAMILIES," someone tweeted. "In this episode the wives are all related (twins and their cousin) and have TWENTY FIVE children between them. I literally can't but yet I am FASCINATED." They didn't make it past the pilot episode before HGTV canned the idea.

Flip It Forward brothers never made it to air

Twins David and Jason Benham were working on a pilot episode for HGTV for an upcoming show called "Flip It Forward." The brothers had a long history of home improvement and for their HGTV show, they were planning on working to find families' dream homes. "In each episode, the guys help a deserving family find a fixer-upper and transform it into their forever home — with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry between the brothers along the way," HGTV said about the planned series (via the Daily Mail).

But the show never even landed with HGTV because news broke that the hosts' father, Flip Benham, was vehemently homophobic in his past and was even charged in 2011 with "stalking" an abortion provider, per the Daily Mail. But David was also accused of preaching homophobic messages at a gathering in North Carolina in 2012. HGTV nixed the project and the brothers appeared on ABC News in 2014 to speak up. "If we had a gay person or a Muslim on our show, we would warmly welcome them," they said. 

They also said in a statement (via the Daily Mail): "We were saddened to hear HGTV's decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it."

Carter Oosterhouse's sexual misconduct accusation

HGTV staple Carter Oosterhouse of the shows "Carter Can" and "Red Hot and Green" was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017 by his makeup artist Kailey Kaminsky. She worked with Oosterhouse in 2008 and alleged that he routinely pressured her to perform oral sex acts on him. "At that point, I was a nervous wreck," Kaminsky told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was so worn down from his advances, so I did." She said that she committed the acts after he used her job to coerce her. "It was the first time," she added. "Then thereafter it was almost every time we would shoot — 10 to 15 times he put me in this position."

Oosterhouse, who later married actor Amy Smart in 2011, said in a statement to People that he saw the relationship with Kaminsky as consensual. "In no way did I ever feel, nor was it ever indicated to me, that Kailey was uncomfortable during our intimate relationship," he added. "I would have never done anything that I was not sure was mutually agreeable."

HGTV also responded to the news with a statement that they have not been connected to Oosterhouse for a long time but stressed that they have no patience for such behavior. "We won't comment on the details of any specific situation, but we work alongside our independent production partners to investigate any allegations and take action where appropriate," they added. Oosterhouse returned to TV in 2018, Page Six notes, on TLC's "Trading Spaces."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Staged to Perfection is not so perfect after all

Home stager to the stars Meridith Baer graced HGTV through her show "Staged to Perfection," and while she wowed viewers, there were some disgruntled folks in real life who either hired her for services or worked with her. In September 2016, the New York Post reported that New Yorker Adam Piekarski paid her company, Meridith Baer Home, $55,000 to furnish his apartment. In addition to that lump sum, Piekarski paid $4,500 monthly to rent the furniture. However, when he later went to the apartment and noted the finished work, he was unhappy, saying that "the furnishings were defective." When he reached out to Baer's company, no one responded, so Piekarski went to the Manhattan Supreme Court and sued the company for $1.32 million.

This wasn't the only lawsuit that Baer was involved in. Baer had hired her nephew and niece, Brett Baer and Jaime Morse, at her staging company. Baer fired them and shortly after, they created their own staging company called Vesta Home, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Their subsequent company was hugely successful and they were hired by Kanye West, Chris Pratt, and other A-listers. Baer sued them in 2015 for $11 million dollars, claiming that they stole clients, property, and ideas that she had taught them. "Meridith treated Brett and Jaime as though they were her son and daughter, which makes their theft and fraud all the more shocking and sad," her statement said. They countersued her, creating a rift in the real estate industry.

Kitchen Cousins sued for poor quality work

HGTV's "Kitchen Cousins," New Jersey-based Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, specialize in bathrooms. Just kidding! The cousins came together after Carrino and his father started the family business, Brunelleschi Construction. Colaneri and Carrino went on to entertain viewers by remaking kitchens into spectacular and functional spaces.

While they're a huge hit on HGTV, Carrino and Colaneri were sued by former clients Robert and Peng Avery. The couple purchased a home in 2012 for $1.3 million and hired Brunelleschi Construction to remodel it. However, they sued the construction company for "consumer fraud, breach of contract, fraud and negligence," according to The Averys claimed that the cousins and their company were paid $211,000 but delivered poor workmanship. The clients were told that the home passed inspection, when it didn't — and Carrino and Colaneri left before the work was completed.

The couple was forced to hire another construction company to finish the work. An arbitration declared that the Averys were to be paid $857,894. Carrino and Colaneri filed for bankruptcy after this in a strategic move to prevent their former clients from placing liens against them. The lawsuit, however, in no way involved HGTV, since this particular renovation job wasn't featured on their show. Carrino and Colaneri later came out with subsequent series, including "Cousins On Call," "Cousins Undercover," and "America's Most Desperate Kitchens." They later brought their design expertise to "The Build Up," featured on Ellen DeGeneres' EllenTube.

House Hunters called out for being fake

"House Hunters" offered viewers a glimpse at the decisions that go into buying or renting a home, with an agent offering prospective locations based on clients' wish lists. The whole point of the show is the excitement in finding out which locations the buyers choose, but it turns out that it's all largely fabricated. The spin-off, "House Hunters International," offers the same idea but with a twist of travel. 

In 2012, Dena Haines wrote about her experience on "House Hunters International" and how — big shock — she and her husband had actually already chosen a home when filming began. "...they wanted us to reenact our initial move to Cuenca Ecuador," Haines wrote of the series, saying that they had to do several takes of scenes, but they viewed just three apartments. "In real life we would have (and did) shop around a bit more," Haines explained. A Texas "House Hunters" participant, Bobi Jensen, also blogged about her 2006 episode (via Hooked on Houses). The show went as far as giving her family a false angle that they were desperate for a larger home (they weren't). So in terms of raw authenticity, "House Hunters" might not be it.

Nevertheless, "House Hunters" wasn't overly phased by the negative feedback. A publicist for the show reached out to EW and said, "We've learned that the pursuit of the perfect home involves big decisions that usually take place over a prolonged period of time — more time than we can capture in 30 minutes of television." They stressed that, to capitalize on production, they work with people who have already narrowed down their search criteria in order to give audiences the experience of choosing a new home.

Old Home Love pulled from HGTV

Candis and Andy Meredith brought their passion for restoring old homes to HGTV and DIY on their show "Old Home Love" in 2015. The couple and their seven children live in Utah. "Old Home Love" didn't last, but the Merediths later put out a second show called "Home Work" with Magnolia Network and spread the word in 2019 that they were looking for homeowners who wanted work done, per People

The series was first available on Discovery+ in 2021, with a January 2022 TV launch. But the pushback on social media was quick, via negative reviews from several homeowners who revealed that the work was poor quality, that they were charged more than the agreed amount, and that the Merediths didn't follow through with the expectations they established. The Los Angeles Times interviewed Aubry Bennion, who noted that as work dragged on in her kitchen, the Merediths had the audacity to ask her for a wire transfer while they were in Europe.

Magnolia Network pulled "Home Work" from their network and said in a statement to People: "Within the last few days, we have learned additional information about the scope of these issues, and we have decided to remove 'Home Work' from the Magnolia Network..." The Merediths were clearly upset by the allegations of poor quality work, because they posted a lengthy explanation on Instagram and said that they don't negate the feelings of anyone else. However, "we chose not to go public with our truth," they wrote. They also flatly denied financial theft of any kind. "Home Work" returned to Magnolia Network less than a week later.

Love It Or List It was sued for poor workmanship

HGTV's hit "Love It Or List It" has come under fire in the past. The show features a spirited sparring between ​​designer Hilary Farr and real estate agent David Visentin to see if homeowners will choose a new home or stay in their current residence, after renovations.

With such a delightful premise, it might be surprising to learn that in 2015, couple Deanna Murphy and Tim Sullivan ended up suing Big Coat TV, the production company behind "Love It Or List It." Murphy and Sullivan claimed that the HGTV show didn't involve a licensed architect when creating the renovation designs, according to The State, nor did a licensed agent show them other housing options. On top of that, the couple claimed that the work done by subcontractors was poor quality. They felt that the $140,000 they set aside for the renovations wasn't used properly. "Big Coat's purported agreement admits that it is in the business of television production, not construction. ... The homeowners' funds essentially pay the cost of creating a stage set for this television series," Sullivan and Murphy said in their lawsuit.

The production company shot back, saying these claims were unsubstantiated and suing the couple for defamation. While the case was in court, Sullivan ended up selling the North Raleigh home. He purchased the property in 2007 for $335,000 and sold it for $570,000. After the sale, the lawsuit and countersuit were dismissed.

Property Brothers is fake.... Plus a bar brawl

Jonathan and Drew Scott, the twins responsible for the HGTV hit "Property Brothers," have gotten their fair share of attention. In 2016, Jonathan was the center of media focus following what was called a bar fight in Fargo, North Dakota, per Us Weekly. The optics of it looked bad, considering the Scott brothers have a brand that's all about community living and family life.

In 2017, Radar got an exclusive look at his and his brother's memoir, "It takes Two: Our Story," with Jonathan's explanation of what happened. The bar closed immediately after their group ordered drinks and security forced everyone out quickly. When a female friend got pushed out the front door while the rest of their group was getting hustled out the back door, Jonathan tried to go to her and a security guard put him in a chokehold. When Jonathan later spoke to police, they admitted that this wasn't the first time something like this had happened at that bar. Unfortunately though, news had already circulated, painting him in a negative light. "I was shaken up, mistreated, and frankly pissed about the whole thing," he said.

That wasn't the only news that broke about "Property Brothers." Typical of the world of residential reality TV, the brothers admitted to PopSugar that most of the homes they work on are already chosen by homeowners. Jonathan admitted that the production company prefers choosing guests who already know where they want to live, so it's not as spontaneous as we thought.