When Chris Tuong hired a contractor to remodel his San Francisco home in 2009, the man who negotiated the deal and led the work said he was the owner of T Square Construction.
But that wasn’t the case. And that was just the beginning of Tad Van Nguyen’s trail of troubles with regulators.
Tad Van Nguyen was, in fact, posing as his brother, Tam Van Nguyen, the legal owner of T Square Construction. Tam Van Nguyen eventually lost his state contractor’s license because he allowed Tad to use his license. Still, that didn’t stop the state from issuing Tad Van Nguyen his own license a few years later.
Eventually, Tad Van Nguyen was flagged by San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection in December as one of the city’s most troubled contractors.
Tad Van Nguyen’s long track record of troubles with the state and city goes back more than a decade, and raises questions about regulators’ ability to effectively keep tabs on a man who has had repeated issues with building rules in San Francisco, rules that are meant to protect the public.
State officials said that none of the violations committed by Tad Van Nguyen in 2009 reached the level of barring him from getting his own license.
In a statement about the case, the California Contractors State License Board said that it “issued Tad Van Nguyen an administrative citation for unlicensed contracting prior to his applying for a license in 2011. Once Tad Van Nguyen paid the administrative citation and met other license requirements, he was able to achieve licensure.”
Tad Van Nguyen, who did not respond to a request for comment, told The Standard in an earlier interview that he had no links with T Square Construction—even though the firm pulled permits in 2011 to work on his San Francisco home in Ingleside Terraces.
“It’s not me,” he said when asked about the permits issued to T Square Construction. “I don’t recall.”
Tam Van Nguyen could not be reached for comment.
Bad Contractors List
Tad Van Nguyen’s troubled track record was made public by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection in December as a result of a 2021 law that expanded oversight so that repeat violators of city building rules would be put on notice and flagged to the public.
Until Dec. 26, there had been only one name on the city’s list of repeat offenders—Rodrigo Santos, a permit expediter and structural engineer who pleaded guilty to federal charges in January 2023 in relation to a scheme he was involved in that helped his clients receive lenient inspections on their projects.
Tad Van Nguyen was added to the list, the city said, due to four serious violations within a year. Those violations occurred on four projects his construction company worked on in 2022 and 2023.
From 1992 to 1996, the brothers had a joint license with T Square Construction, which lapsed and was never renewed. In 1996, under a new license with the T Square name, Tam went solo, and his venture didn’t get in trouble with the state until 2003.
A state contractors license board investigation that led to a $100 fine and a citation that year found that Tam Van Nguyen “allowed the use of an individual license number by an unlicensed person” and entered into a contract with that unlicensed person. State citation documents did not say who that person was.
That same year, another investigation by the same agency led to a $100 fine and citation that found Tam Van Nguyen “aided and abetted an unlicensed person with the intent to evade contractors license law.”
Six years later, the state investigated Tuong’s San Francisco remodel project and discovered Tam Van Nguyen was allowing his brother Tad to work under his license.
A $145,000 Remodel
In 2009, Tad Van Nguyen negotiated a $145,000 remodel project with Christopher Tuong at 127 Milton St. in San Francisco. But Tad Van Nguyen had no license and said he was the owner of T Square Construction, state contractors board records state. Tuong said Tam Van Nguyen never came to the site.
“Tad Nguyen was not licensed as a contractor or a home improvement salesman at the time,” the state records say. “Tam Van Nguyen never met Tuong and had no direct involvement with the project; rather, he allowed his brother to use his license on the project.”
The investigation details numerous issues discovered by city inspectors.
Aside from not having a license, Tad Van Nugyen’s work on the project was substandard, beyond the scope of the permit and plans, and included a number of things the owner never requested, according to state records. For instance, when he was asked to seal cracked steps, he instead demolished them and rebuilt the steps. In another example where Tuong asked him to unclog a drain, instead, Nguyen replaced the entire sewer line.
When a San Francisco inspector with the Department of Building Inspection came to the site, the inspector found that Tad Van Nguyen’s work did not pass the inspection. “Every job by this contractor has multiple problems,” the inspector wrote in documents quoted by the state board. “…On all previous jobs he has said that he has made all corrections required but never has.”
When another city inspector came to the site and Tad Van Nguyen’s work did not pass inspection again, he lied to the inspector, according to state contractors license board records.
When the inspector pointed out what looked like unpermitted work, evidenced by fresh saw cuts, Nguyen denied he had done the unpermitted work or that the freshly cut wood was his handiwork. When the inspector went upstairs and found an entire floor of unpermitted work, records state that Tad Van Nguyen “lied to the inspectors again, claiming that a different contractor had remodeled the upstairs.”
There were also numerous issues with the work on Tuong’s home, including a staircase and floor that were inappropriately supported, and numerous code violations, according to state documents. In one room, hardwood floors were put in before the roof was watertight, and water intruded and damaged the floor, state documents said.
After a stop order was issued by a San Francisco building inspector, Tad Van Nguyen said that Tuong would have to take care of the problems on the site, state records said. So, Tuong withdrew payment to Tad Van Nguyen, who threatened to put a lien on the property.
Soon after, Tuong discovered that Tad Van Nguyen had no license. When he demanded to meet with Tad Van Nguyen’s brother, Tuong was instead presented with an invoice for nearly $28,000, which Tuong refused to pay. T Square Construction and Tad Van Nguyen never returned to the job.
Within months, Tad Van Nguyen came through with his threat and recorded a lien against Tuong’s property. The lien has since been removed, said Tuong.
Tuong eventually hired another contractor.
“He should not be practicing construction,” Tuong said of Tad Van Nguyen.
State Regulators Revoke License
When the state finally acted, it issued a number of citations and fines to T Square Construction and revoked Tam Van Nguyen’s contractor's license.
The violations also led to an $11,000 fine for Tam Van Nguyen issued by the San Francisco Department of Public Works and nearly $60,000 in other fines from the state.
When the state held a hearing on the matter before an administrative law court in July 2012, Tam Van Nguyen did not appear, but Tad Van Nguyen did, court records show.
“Tad Nguyen, Tam Van Nguyen’s brother, represented T Square Construction, and was present through the administrative hearing,” records said.
After the administrative court hearing, Tam Van Nguyen’s license was revoked in September 2012, and he was ordered to pay more than $44,000 in restitution and almost $15,000 to the state to cover the cost of their investigation, according to state records.
In 2017, Tam Van Nguyen applied to the state to have his license reinstated, but the state noted that he had yet to pay the $44,000 restitution.
Tuong said he has yet to receive any restitution.