WESTFIELD — Spring will be here soon, and for many of us, that means getting your yard spruced up with flowers and green grass.
Many people will be looking to hire contractors to help with yard work, but before you do, you’ll want to hear this Hamilton County woman’s story.
Sue Mullen of Westfield was looking to get some help keeping her lawn and landscaping looking nice.
“We wanted an underground sprinkler put in, because we've got a lot of landscaping around the yard and I was getting tired of carrying the hose around the yard,” said Sue.
Sue’s neighbor gave her a flyer recommending Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers.
“They sent me a quote, and when I looked at it, it was very reasonable,” said Sue. “They were cheaper than anyone else I had called."
Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers installed her irrigation system on September 23, records show.
Sue paid $100 up front and nearly $3,500 for the job, but soon after, she says something was not right.
“The neighbor started noticing there was water coming down the street,” said Sue.
Concerned about a leak, Sue reached out to Green Lawn.
“I've sent three emails and about four texts and I know my husband has called about three times,” said Sue. “No one has responded.”
Sue hired a plumber who found the irrigation job was “improperly done” and that the sprinkler company used the wrong fitting to connect the water line to the meter pit.
The plumber also found the irrigation line was improperly run and as a result, the water meter lid won’t properly close.
Sue says her irrigation system does work now.
“It will because it's been fixed and replaced by the plumber,” said Sue.
Sue says between the plumbing repair bill and extra water costs from the leak, she’s racked up about $3,000 in unexpected costs.
She filed complaints with the Indiana Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau and she contacted WRTV Investigates with concerns about Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers.
“They're not responding to me,” said Sue. “I’m trying to get their attention somehow.”
WRTV Investigates did some checking and found Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers currently has an alert from the Better Business Bureau.
The alert says:
Consumers allege that the business:
On March 11, 2021, BBB requested that the company respond to alleged pattern of complaint. As of June 30, 2021, the company has not responded to BBB requests.
- Performs materially deficient, faulty, or shoddy work.
- Fails to repair faulty work within a reasonable timeframe.
- Does not respond to consumer requests for updates or refunds within a reasonable timeframe.
We asked BBB spokesperson Jennifer Adamany what she could tell us about Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers.
“They have an F rating which is the lowest on the BBB rating scale and we've seen a pattern of complaint for faulty installations or some kind of material defect,” said Adamany.
Adamany also said they have a pattern of not responding to consumer complaints.
“It's critical,” said Adamany. “Not always can you satisfy customers, but you can be transparent on what the situation is or letting them know you hear them and you're trying to resolve whatever their need is."
WRTV Investigates stopped by the Carmel address on Green Lawn’s website—it’s a UPS store.
We also visited the address on Sue’s contract, 5737 W. 85th St., but another business is located in that space.
We emailed company president Troy Tverberg, who agreed to a Zoom interview with WRTV from his Florida home.
“I live in Florida,” said Tverberg. “We're a seasonal business.”
Tverberg said they’re usually in Indiana from mid-April to mid-October.
“We will rent an apartment or an AirBnb while I'm up there and work out of there,” said Tverberg. “My trailer/truck I park at a storage place during the summer."
They closed their physical location on 85th street in 2020, said Tverberg.
“We actually started the business in 1997 with my brothers in Minnesota,” said Tverberg. “We expanded to Indianapolis in 2010.”
WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney asked Tverberg’s response to the BBB alert on his business.
"To be honest it has not been a roadblock for any of my business,” said Tverberg. “No one ever says ‘you know what Troy, your Better Business Bureau is an F.’ It's not important to me. I guess it should be."
As for Sue Mullen in Westfield and Green Lawn not returning her messages, Tverberg admitted he did not communicate with her.
“I was just kind of lost on what I should have done,” said Tverberg. “Should I have called her? Absolutely. I should have called her. I should have taken care of it immediately. I didn't. I blew that.”
Tverberg denied his company improperly installed Sue Mullen’s irrigation system.
“Sometimes things just fail,” said Tverberg. “It could be a faulty part. I don't know."
Tverberg runs the business with his family and says they’re working to resolve complaints and improve their BBB rating.
Following our interview, Tverberg sent Sue Mullen a check for $2,908 which covered her extra water bills and plumber repair bill.
“I am really good with people,” said Tverberg. “Do some people slip through the crack every once in a while? Yes, they do.”
While Sue Mullen gathered multiple quotes, she did not know about the BBB’s alert on Green Lawn Underground Sprinklers when she hired them.
She wishes she had done more research.
“I don’t want someone to go through what I went through,” said Sue.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips before hiring someone to work on your home or yard:
- Research and gather information. Search for a contractor’s Business Profile at BBB.org for free information on their history of complaints, read verified Customer Reviews, and see if they are an Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB's accreditation standards including: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity. Also search for the name of the company online along with "Complaint", "Review" or "Scam" to find different results. Ask the company if employees and sub-contractors undergo a background check. Are they trained and certified? What identification will they show when they come to your home?
- Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work. Ask if the contractor stuck to the estimated budget and completion date for the project. If possible, inspect the contractor's work yourself. Ask if the contractor is a member of a professional association that has standards or a code of ethics.
- Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.
- Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Specify who is to obtain necessary building permits and who is responsible for clean-up. Make sure all verbal promises are included in the contract. Ask how much work will be subcontracted and ask for information on the subcontractors. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
- Verify license and insurance. Always be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your region. In the United States, you can get to your state’s licensing agency to learn more here. In Canada, requirements differ from province to province. Search for information specific to the province you are having the work done. Your local BBB can help. Once you have your contractor’s insurance information, call the carrier to confirm appropriate coverage for worker’s compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
- Confirm building permits. Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. They will usually obtain the permits, but you will probably pay for them. That should be detailed in your contract. Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment.
- Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver, in the United States, is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. In some Canadian provinces, there is a mandatory Builders Lien holdback, so ensure you understand any financial obligations you may be liable for.
- Think about future service issues. Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
- Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
- Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
- Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.