5 On Your Side

Couple pays for new lawn, but contractor walks off the job

Posted December 12, 2012

— A local couple paid thousands of dollars for a new lawn, but the contractor walked off the job. The complaint to 5 On Your Side involves a local franchise owner of U.S. Lawns, Greg Hinson.

In May, Nile and Rebecca Calderon hired Hinson to install new sod at their Garner home. They gave Hinson a 50-percent deposit of $3,147.

Nile Calderon showed us pictures of what he got for that, a yard of rocky dirt. Calderon says Hinson sprayed weed killer, twice, tilled the yard and had two guys clean up natural areas in the backyard.

He says things went downhill the moment he flagged a few concerns. "They said they're ready to lay sod down," he told us. "This was not even close to a straight line."

Calderon says Hinson and U.S. Lawns also broke a large drainage pipe in the backyard and tried to add six feet to the natural area in their backyard, which they didn't want.

"At that point when I was showing him, 'Hey, is this going to be fixed?' He was already saying, 'You want me to just go now?'" 

That was June 18.

Nile Calderon in his yard Couple pays for new lawn, but contractor walks off the job

Calderon says he repeatedly reached out to Hinson. "He was not interested in meeting face to face, he was not interested in talking to us over the phone, he was not interested in even emailing us," Calderon told us. "He just wanted us to just go away"

Then in late July, Calderon received a letter from an attorney saying he violated the contract with Hinson because his backyard gates were locked and the crew couldn't finish the job.

Calderon was dumbfounded.

"If he's saying he couldn't finish the job because the gates were locked, then how did he get his wheel barrows and equipment that was stored under my deck," Calderon asked.

And he wonders why the crew didn't at least lay sod in the front yard?

We emailed and called Greg Hinson before going to the addresses he lists for U.S. Lawns of Goldsboro.

The first was a mailbox at a Garner shipping store.

At the Clayton address he lists, we found his truck in the driveway and an open garage. 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte knocked, but only dogs came to the door.

Afterward, his wife, Ann Hinson, called to say their attorney told them not to talk about the case.

We also contacted U.S. Lawns corporate offices in Orlando, Florida. Marketing Manager Carol Beeler told us all U.S. Lawns offices are independently owned and operated. She says they cannot "force" Greg Hinson to respond in a particular way.

She did point out that U.S. Lawns is a commercial landscape management company and that franchisees are not supposed to provide any residential work.

The Calderons have since paid another landscaper $5,300 dollars to finish the job.
They'd like their $3,147 deposit back, but at the very least, want others to know about their experience with Greg Hinson and U.S. Lawns.

"We don't want this to happen to another family," Calderon told us. "Not just the money, but a lot of aggravation just to get it done."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • dherman001 Dec 20, 2012

    Wow Superman, what is you business name so that I can avoid using you? Bottom line here is the the Hinson guy got paid for work they he didnt do. He walked off with someones money and didnt complete the deal. It my world that would be grounds for a good ole southern whoopin! Thankfully I have a farm, so I dont need a landscaper. Thanks to Mr. Calderon for exposing this crook!

  • superman Dec 18, 2012

    Wouldnt want the homeowners business. He is going to be calling the TV station come June or July and complain that the sod was defective cause it has all died. Watering sod and watering a planted fesque lawn are very different. Unlesss he has a sprinkler, he is going to have to water the sod EVER DAY. If I had 8K that I wanted to throw in the yard, my first project would be to install a really good well planned sprinkler system. Most contractors who "move" dirt around would have the home owner to sign a waiver that he is not responsible for anything in the ground like pipes, cables, electric wiring etc. The homeowner is going to be like me when I was a boy. I wanted a pony real bad. Finally got one and a month later I was tired of feeding it and had changed my mind. He is going to have to treat the sod like a new baby. It is going to need a LOT of loving care or it will be dead.

  • jon14 Dec 14, 2012

    Yup contractor should have partially refunded the deposit, clearly he did not do enough work to warrant the whole deposit, but he did do work and should be paid for it. Good to hear about your lawn superman, I used to work in a nursery and I can vouch for the need to keep it watered after planting it. I can also vouch for how expensive sod is and how little fun it is to roll up / unroll and lay. The contractor didn't want to do the expensive labor intensive part of the job and booked it over a "locked gate" or so the story says anyways, haven't heard his side of the story yet. He was asked to share it and I hope he does at some point.

  • mr357mag Dec 14, 2012

    I think the contractor is on this blog... lol. Some on this blog may have missed the whole point of the complaint. Again, being paid for the work performed is not the issue here. Bad business practices and neglect of communication from the company hired under contract was the issue. This company sounds like bad news, no respectable company would respond in that manner. If you know anything about landscaping or have some common sense, you would know that the majority of the costs are accumulated from the purchase of the sod. Conveniently, this company walked away from the deal before buying the sod. I hope that was liquid gold he sprayed to kill the weeds and move some dirt around... lol. Not to mention the damage the guy did to his drainage piping, incompetent contractor. I know of many respectable landscaping companies in the area. Unfortunately, this couple was stupid or too trustworthy to hand this shady character that much money up front. Take him to court, you'll win.

  • superman Dec 14, 2012

    Rebelyell You dont think the contractor has a right to be paid fof the work that he did do? What planet you live on? I dont think you will find a contractor that is going to do about $9k of work without money up front. If you quit your job afer two weeks you dont think the employeer has to pay you for the time you were there? I kinda think the homeowner was hoping to get the work done free. He paid the new contractor $5K just to lay the sod? The home owner was certainly "dumb founded". Thinks he is going to get all that work for free. I think the shoe is on the wrong foot here. I am happy to hear about the homeowner-cause I wouldnt do business with him. Depending on the contract he may have to refund some of the deposit but it also may be that he is going to have to pay the contractor more money. Mr. Homeowner you better be careful cause you may have to pay him more.

  • mr357mag Dec 14, 2012

    I think we can all agree that everyone has the right to be paid for their work. Although, how can you reach a compromise on compensation if the contractor doesn't return emails or calls? The contractor said the gates were locked, so that's why he couldn't finish the work. That's not a valid reason to terminate a contract, sounds like an excuse. As the story states, if the gates kept him from his work, how did he gather his equipment from the backyard and why didn't he start the front yard? I would think that WRAL did their homework before airing the story. Why didn't the contractor state his case to WRAL if he has nothing to hide? Why was he performing residential work using his franchisee name that is only to be used for commercial agreements? I'm not an attorney either and I don't watch much TV, but this is bad business and I would consult an attorney if I was that guy. That's a lot of money and the contractor's lack of response is unacceptable under any circumstance. My 2 cents!

  • hp277 Dec 14, 2012

    Next time, hire a local contractor who doesn't require a deposit up fromt. I use Eastern Turf Maintenance and they are terrific!

  • Rebelyell55 Dec 14, 2012

    The contractor will lose in court. Ya can't just do what he did, and lying about it (must have poor excuse of a lawyer) ain't going to help.

  • superman Dec 14, 2012

    I am not an attorney but I have watched contract cases on TV. This is really unfair to the contractor. He has a right to keep some or all of the deposit depending on the value of his work. If a contractor stops in the middle of building your house do you really think you get the value of his time and materials free? Decide on what is reasonable for the work he did and then find someone else to finish the job. Keep in mind that the price they agreeded upon may not be the same as the price they are going to get from someone else. They most likely got bids and he was the low bidder and he got the job. I dont see any issue with this other than to decide on the value of the work that was received and they adjust the payment up or down. Just because he only completed "half" the job doesnt mean the homeowner gets the work that was done free.

  • superman Dec 14, 2012

    Keeping the cash wasnt stupd. He has a right to be paid for the work he did. They only paid half. All was left to do was lay the sod. If they get someone else to finish the job the cost of completing the job wont be as much as the initial estimate. People have a right to be paid for the work they do even if they dont complete the work. They just have to decide now what is a fair amount for him to be paid for the work he did.