20 Dramatic Scandals That HGTV Would Probably Rather Keep Under Wraps

One of America’s most-watched cable channels, HGTV has prided itself on its wholesome real estate and home improvement shows. However, behind the scenes, the network perhaps isn’t quite as squeaky clean as it purports to be. From bankruptcy cases to bar brawls, here’s a look at 20 of its biggest scandals.

20. Nicole Curtis’ secret pregnancy

Rehab Addict sounds like a reality series about substance abuse. Of course, it’s actually a show about restoring rundown homes to their former glories. And its host, Nicole Curtis, has gone above and beyond to make sure that the focus stays on her renovation talents rather than her private life.

In 2015 Curtis fell pregnant again. But keen to shelter the family from the spotlight, the star decided to hide her baby bump with various suitably placed items while filming Rehab Addict. Curtis later told People, “Having my newborn child’s face plastered all over social media on a Facebook post where someone could cut and paste it and make it a meme, that wasn’t for me.”

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19. House Hunters accused of fakery

House Hunters is just one of many HGTV shows that have been accused of scripting its situations. The series first came into disrepute in 2010 following a post on a blog named Hooked on Houses. In the article, a female participant gave a thorough account of how her experiences on the show were heavily guided by the production team.

Intriguingly, HGTV has largely refrained from responding to rumors of such fakery. But it appears as though the network isn’t too concerned with the issue. Indeed, during one summer season, it ran a spoof promo for House Hunters in which the behind-the-scenes team could be seen writing an episode’s storyline.

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18. The Love It or List It lawsuit

A couple in North Carolina certainly didn’t love it after appearing on one of HGTV’s longest-running home renovation shows. In fact, they were so disgruntled about the treatment their house received that they ended up suing the makers of Love It or List It. So, what exactly was their beef?

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Well, in the lawsuit the pair claimed that the show had left their property “irreparably damaged” during filming. They also alleged that they’d been ignored when it came to the choice of contractor. Furthermore, the couple argued that the series wasn’t anywhere near as real as it claims to be.

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17. Flip or Flop scam

In an attempt to capitalize on their increasingly high profiles, Flip or Flop hosts Christina and Tarek El Moussa decided to stage a series of seminars in 2016. The husband and wife team were supposed to give those who paid the costly fees the benefit of their house-flipping wisdom. However, their teaching skills apparently left a lot to be desired.

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According to Associated Press, no fewer than 12 people, in fact, believed they’d been short-changed by the seminars. Not only were the El Moussas notably absent, but their stand-ins also spent much of the allotted time trying to sell further expensive classes. HGTV soon issued a statement to distance itself from the lessons.

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16. Jonathan Scott’s bar brawl

The Scott brothers present themselves as the squeaky-clean All-American heartthrobs of HGTV. And that’s why Jonathan’s involvement in a 2016 brawl in North Dakota came as such a surprise. The contractor became involved in a scuffle after he and his friends were told that their drinking session had to come to an end.

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After voicing his disappointment at being informed that it was closing time, Jonathan was reportedly put in a headlock by the venue’s security guard. The star subsequently phoned the cops to claim he’d been attacked, but an apparent dearth of supporting evidence meant that the case wasn’t pursued further. In an interview with Fox News, however, Jonathan insisted that he hadn’t been to blame for the incident.

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15. The anti-LGBT hosts

David and Jason Benham ended up having their 2014 show, Flip It Forward, canceled prior to a single episode being aired. The twin brothers got into trouble when it was revealed they’d organized an anti-LGBT rally two years previously. According to E! News, David had reportedly spoken about stopping “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation” in an interview with a right-wing radio show.

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The siblings may well have been inspired by their father Flip Benham, the leader of an anti-abortion organization named Operation Save America. After learning about the pair’s activist background, HGTV decided to pull the plug on their renovation show immediately. The brothers later claimed, however, that HGTV had already been aware of their views before signing them up.

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14. Dream Home’s tax burdens

HGTV’s annual Dream Home project is seen as a life-affirming event. Approximately 100 million people enter each year to win the lottery that boasts an immaculate new property as its ultimate prize. However, this so-called dream home has far too often turned into a financial nightmare.

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According to Country Living, just six of the 21 winners up to 2018 stayed in their “dream” property for more than 12 months. So, why did 15 recipients move out so fast? Well, the problem with such a luxurious property is that it also comes with high taxes, which many people simply couldn’t afford.

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13. The Gaineses’ lawsuit

In 2016 Fixer Upper stars Joanna and Chip Gaines were sued for $1 million in a dispute over a parking spot. The drama began when the husband and wife team erected a gate on an alleyway at the side of their Magnolia Market at the Silos complex. Although the Gaineses didn’t own this space, they’d agreed with the original proprietor to use it for free customer parking.

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But when the alleyway was sold, its new proprietors wanted customers to fork out for the privilege of using the spaces. After learning that a gate had been erected by the Gaineses to divide paying and non-paying spaces, they then took legal action. What’s more, the owners believed they’d been wronged to the tune of up to $1 million.

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12. Ellen’s Design Challenge plagiarism

Long before Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show made headlines for all the wrong reasons, her HGTV venture was also courting controversy. In 2015 Tim McLellan was crowned the winner on Ellen’s Design Challenge, picking up a cool $100,000 for his efforts, too. However, his victory was taken away from him within days over accusations of plagiarism.

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Katie Stout, another finalist, was belatedly handed the prize after McLellan’s winning furniture was said to be a little too close to an existing design. In a later appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, though, McLellan refuted all the claims of plagiarism. The host partly defended him, responding, “Most furniture is a derivative of something. Maybe something starts it, but chairs, tables, everything – it’s similar.”

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11. The misjudged American Flag tip

The lesson of this story is never advise Americans to use the national flag simply for decorative purposes. To help the public with their Independence Day celebrations in 2013, HGTV aired a segment titled “Classic Fourth of July Table Setting Ideas.” One concept was to make a table runner out of a stars and stripes flag. To say this bombed hard is an understatement.

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Indeed, the network was bombarded with complaints from patriotic viewers appalled at the idea of their national flag being covered in barbecue food. In response, HGTV quickly issued an apology and reassured viewers they were proud Americans. The statement read, “This was a regrettable use of our flag and it never should have happened.”

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10. The El Moussas’ turbulent relationship

Christina and Tarek El Moussa, aka the stars of Flip or Flop, made headlines for all the wrong reasons in the summer of 2016 thanks to a spat that appeared to have got out of hand. According to reports, the latter was seen brandishing a firearm during the incident, with the cops becoming involved as a result. By the end of the same year, the once-happy couple revealed they were going their separate ways.

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You might have expected for that to be the end of the Flip or Flop, too. However, just four months after announcing their split, the El Moussas confirmed they’d continue producing their hit HGTV show. In fact, the drama appeared to boost their careers, as the network also green-lit a number of other ventures for the El Moussas as well.

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9. Nicole Curtis’ court troubles

Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis has seemingly spent almost as much time in court as she has on camera in recent years. The home-renovating star was once at war with her youngest child’s father in a bitter custody conflict. And her own mother also took legal action against her.

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Curtis has fallen foul of an entire city, too. Yes, Minneapolis officials decided to bring a suit against the HGTV regular after the redevelopment of a site she bought for just two dollars failed to materialize. In return, Curtis claims that she was subjected to intimidation during her feud with the City of Lakes.

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8. The Gaines’ anti-LGBT controversy

Fixer Upper stars Joanna and Chip Gaines found themselves in hot water in 2016 thanks to the controversial views of their pastor. According to BuzzFeed, Jimmy Seibert is a proud conservative who has often spoken about his dislike of the LGBT community. The Gaineses, therefore, were seen as guilty by association.

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The Gaineses declined to comment on the matter at the time, however. Instead, it was left up to the network to inform viewers that it was completely against any form of discrimination. The statement read, “HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”

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7. Meredith Baer sued

Meredith Baer became yet another HGTV star heading to court in 2016 following a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled client. Adam Piekarski had hired the home stager to work her magic on his apartment in Manhattan. He dished out more than $50,000 for the privilege, as well as extra monthly costs of close to $5,000. Unfortunately, Piekarski wasn’t impressed with the results.

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Indeed, Piekarski claimed the items that Baer chose for his pad were damaged. When he tried to alert the Staged to Perfection star’s company to the problem, he was reportedly met with a resounding silence. As a result, Piekarski decided to sue Meredith Baer Home for in excess of $1.3 million.

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6. Kitchen Cousins’ bankruptcy

Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, aka the Kitchen Cousins, were forced to file for bankruptcy in 2015 in the wake of a lawsuit being brought against them. The home renovators ended up in financial difficulties after two clients from New Jersey were left unimpressed with their handiwork. Peng and Robert Avery claimed that the stars had been dishonest about inspections and then walked away without finishing the job.

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The property in question, which reports claimed previously belonged to baseball legend Don Mattingly, was purchased by the Averys for $1.3 million in 2012. However, they had to wait three years to live in the property following their contractor problems. And in the pair were subsequently given more than $800,000 to compensate for all the inconvenience.

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5. Vanilla Ice charged with theft

Best known for his early 1990s chart-topper “Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice became an unlikely HGTV star in the late Noughties, when the rapper launched a self-titled series. However, TMZ subsequently reported that the man born Robert Van Winkle had taken a few too many liberties with his second career.

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In 2015 Vanilla Ice was accused of stealing items from a home that was unoccupied at the time. The property was close to one that he’d been working on for The Vanilla Ice Project. And once the proprietor realized certain things had gone missing, he contacted the cops. The star was subsequently taken into custody on charges of grand theft and burglary.

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4. Windy City Rehab’s multiple lawsuits

Windy City Rehab has been hit with multiple lawsuits since first airing in 2019. Alongside two of the show’s contractors, host Alison Victoria Gramenos was sued by a couple who’d purchased a first season property due to issues with its windows, bathroom and roof. Chicago authorities have also filed several cases against producers for “dangerous and unsafe conditions” in the homes they’ve worked on.

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If that wasn’t enough, two of Windy City Rehab’s stars then also became embroiled in their own court battle. In late 2019 Space Builders, a company owned by contractor Ermin Pajazetovic, brought a lawsuit against colleague Donovan Eckhardt’s firm Greymark Development Group. The latter had allegedly failed to pay the full amount for a property in Lakeview that the former had finished working on.

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3. The polygamous home renovation show

HGTV showed that there really is a home renovation show for everyone with their 2019 venture, House Full of Spouses. The one-off special saw married couple Rachel and Greg Hansen renovate properties for a very niche type of family: the polygamous. Unsurprisingly, the premise didn’t go down well with the network’s more conservative viewers.

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“This is not family-friendly television,” argued a particularly disgruntled viewer on Twitter. Another simply demanded, “Please remove House Full of Spouses from the air.” And, unfortunately for those who may have enjoyed the show’s unique concept, the latter grumbler got their wish. House Full of Spouses hasn’t returned to TV screens since.

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2. Tarek El Moussa’s steroids admission

Not exactly a stranger to controversy, Tarek El Moussa shocked Flip or Flop fans in 2018 when he confessed to consuming steroids. The home renovation star claimed that he’d been advised to do so by an expert in how to defy the aging process, even though the amounts of testosterone in his body were perfectly fine. And El Moussa admits that they only ever had a negative effect on both his mind and body.

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In an interview on The Dr. Drew Podcast, El Moussa revealed, “I would find myself just sitting alone and just being depressed. It’s all because of all the **** that was being pumped into my body just turned me into someone that wasn’t me. In 20/20 hindsight, I think, ‘How in the h*** did I film a show, start a company? How did I do all these things?’ I was so spun out from all the **** they gave me.”

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1. Property Brothers file for bankruptcy

Jonathan and Drew Scott might be experts on the property market, but their handling of financial matters apparently leaves a lot to be desired. The brothers’ 2020 book It Takes Two: Our Story saw both siblings admit to facing major money issues. Drew somehow amassed losses in the region of $100,000, while Jonathan once had gone bankrupt.

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Nonetheless, the brothers are now able to take something positive from such disastrous experiences. They wrote, “It really turned out to be a game-changer for us, because we realized how any reckless decision you make can leave you vulnerable. Now we’ve put due diligence in and strengthened our financial situation.”

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