5 On Your Side

Holly Springs couple drops $10,000 on bungled backyard revamp

Posted August 30
Updated August 31

Home improvement projects can be big investments.

Sam and Dana Stubbs spent thousands to take their backyard from pretty nice to spectacular, but after a battle with a local landscaper, the couple says they feel cheated.

The huge tree stumps, holes, construction materials and an incomplete outdoor fireplace are the visible remnants of the battle. The couple says they also lost time and thousands of dollars.

The Stubbs are now more than $10,000 into what they describe as a disastrous backyard redo at their Holly Springs home.

They hired Ryan's Landscaping, owned by Mikel Fogt, in March to complete their project. Since then, Sam Stubbs says nothing has gone right.

"It's almost like things were done in the wrong order, like people here doing the work didn't know the right process or the way to do the work," Sam Stubb said.

"The last like, three, four weeks, he'd have guys show up, one or two at a time, with just a shovel and a sawzall," Dana Stubbs said of crews who came to their home to remove large tree trunks with small equipment.

The couple says the out-of-order approach made them start doubting whether or not the project would be completed correctly.

"That's when we really started feeling like something was wrong, when the stumps were here and they started building walls with no drainage or grading," Dana Stubbs said.

Sam Stubbs says Fogt tried to explain the issues, but many of his statements came across as excuses.

"He said all the right things to put us at ease, to a point," he said. "Until we got ourselves too deep, we couldn't get out."

The final straw, the couple says, came when Fogt wanted another $7,000 in order to continue the project.

Fogt says the payment would have met the contract's 50 percent deposit, an amount the Stubbs' say he did not require at the beginning of the project.

Given the status of their yard, the Stubbs' refused to pay.

When they couldn't resolve the issue, they called 5 On Your Side.

Fogt would not talk with 5 On Your Side on camera, but he said the Stubbs' "breached the contract" and owe him $3,700 for work he already did. Fogt says he's been in the landscaping business for 17 years and had very few problems.

Despite Fogt's statement, 5 On Your Side has received complaints from other customers.

Patrick Quinn, also of Holly Springs, won a $2,000 judgment against Fogt in small claims court. Quinn sued over problems with a patio and pizza oven Fogt built.

Jeanae and Todd Johnson, of Fuquay-Varina, complained about an uneven patio and shifting retaining walls Fogt built for them. They ultimately hired another contractor to finish the job.

Other contractors have assessed the Stubbs project, and one told 5 On Your Side that the existing work needs to be removed and redone.

The Stubbs have already moved forward to fix their yard. They hired another landscaper who has cleared out everything to begin from scratch.

The Stubbs' want their money back, but at a minimum, they said they want others to know about their experience.

"It's one thing to lose the money, but I mean, not only do we have nothing to show for it, but our backyard is unsafe and destroyed," Dana Stubbs said.

5 On Your Side discovered that Fogt only does business with cash. Credit card purchases offer more protection for consumers. 5 On Your Side recommends paying no more than 10 percent down on projects like these, with follow-up payments being made when work is done to your satisfaction.

Fogt told 5 On Your Side that his crews damaged a playhouse and trampoline in the Stubbs' yard, but he said he agreed to give them $1,600 for the damage. The Stubbs say that, so far, he hasn't done that.


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  • Aiden Audric Aug 31, 12:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    They're not on Angie's List.

    They're not accredited by the BBB, and they're given a 'C' rating.

    One star on Yelp, but they're reviews from people mentioned in the story so that's not new news...

    And as Fenway pointed out, 'cash only' on multi-thousand dollar jobs screams 'run!'.

  • Fenway O'Donnell Aug 30, 8:06 p.m.
    user avatar

    If a contractor only takes cash, the odds are that he is not reporting all his income to tax officials. That is a HUGE red flag.