Gosport pensioner goes into battle with landscaper after 'botched' £3,000 garden makeover

A furious Gosport pensioner blasted a garden landscaping makeover as a complete shambles after a firm failed to rectify a £3k botched garden job.

Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 10:57 am
Updated Thursday, 19th August 2021, 1:22 pm

Mobility-impaired Barbara Collins accepted a £3,045 loan from a close friend to have her back garden revamped.

The plan was a complete landscape makeover so she could safely enjoy the freedom of getting out and around the garden and retrieve her mobility scooter from the shed to enjoy the summer months in the sun.

But after online specialist firm Stand Too Fencing and Landscaping were employed and paid, she discovered the job wasn’t up to scratch. Despite repeated requests they blanked her appeals and messages to put the defects right or refund the money.

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Barbara Collins Picture: Mike Cooter (110821)

An angry and frustrated Barbara told Streetwise she’d agreed the revamp proposal last March after her friend spotted the firm’s ads on Facebook and was satisfied with work they’d completed in her garden.

Knowing Barbara’s plight, her friend had no hesitation in arranging for the man who ran the company, Chris Horner, for a quote and pay for the garden upgrade.

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A devastated Barbara, 66, said they’d put their complete trust in the firm but had been led up the garden path.

Barbara Collins in the garden where sub-standard landscaping has caused disappointment, stress and a potentially huge bill to put things right. Picture: Mike Cooter (110821)

She recalled warning lights should have flashed when everything was just agreed verbally. There were no contact details apart from an email address and mobile phone number. A written quotation, contract, breakdown of materials, and receipts also failed to materialise.

‘It all came about because my garden was in a bit of a state,’ she said, ‘and I kept falling over. My friend kindly agreed to lend me the money so I could get the garden completely flat and avoid the risk of falling.

‘Mr Horner came out and looked the garden over and was pleasant enough in the beginning, but he gave the verbal estimate to my friend, not me, for the job.

‘Once the work started he wanted money up front, but was never very forthcoming about what he proposed to do.

‘He just asked how I wanted it and I said completely flat. I gave him a bit of paper with a drawing of a path all the way round and artificial grass in the middle and he just said okay.

‘When he was last here we briefly looked the finished job over and it appeared really nice. I didn’t have time to inspect it thoroughly because I’d just taken my morphine medication and it was raining. When it dried out it immediately became obvious it was a disaster and not up to professional standards.

‘I called in another contractor to look the project over and they’ve quoted me a further £3,000 to put the job right.’

An incensed Barbara emailed Stand Too a list of workmanship defects backed up with photographs, together with a request for the firm’s trading address and the necessary paperwork to confirm the transaction.

Among the problems revealed were multi-coloured sinking and cracked flagstones laid on top the existing ones, broken surround tiles with poorly filled gaps between the joints, tiles bridging the damp proof course allowing water to enter the house via an air brick.

Uneven artificial grass lawn laid the wrong way round concealed two drain covers on soil that hadn’t been sufficiently levelled and compacted. Lawn edging had not been levelled with path tiles and created a significant tripping hazard.

Matters finally hit rock bottom when former care assistant Barbara was at her wits’ end and looked to trading standards and Action Fraud to investigate the matter on her behalf. Exasperated, she ended up being sent around in ever-decreasing circles with nothing to show for it.

Gosport resident Bob Maynard called in Streetwise to fight a vulnerable Barbara’s corner, but Mr Horner promptly went into denial.

We argued that given the weight and credibility of the evidence provided by the complainants there was no doubt they were justified in complaining about a seriously botched job and being short-changed.

The 33-year-old sole proprietor said he wasn’t prepared to respond with his side of the story until he had contacted his solicitor, but when we suggested calling trading standards for advice and asked for his solicitor’s phone number to discuss the matter, he promptly went to ground.

Not prepared to let him off the hook, Streetwise continued to insist the complainants were entitled an explanation.

We were particularly concerned about the concealment of his contact details, numerous apparent consumer protection violations, and his rejection of a written statement by one of Barbara’s neighbours confirming he’d failed to show up as promised on two occasions to rectify his cowboy workmanship.

This finally won us a statement explaining that he was currently unfit for work, followed by an assertion he always provided contracts, detailed descriptions, and quotes for every customer.

He insisted he’d completed the job to professional standards and had photographs to prove it. He accused Barbara of allowing her dogs to rip up the turf, and her scooter of damaging the paving slabs.

We explained his allegations were implausible and not sufficiently persuasive to establish the facts unless they could be backed with evidence. We requested copies of the paperwork and his photographs, together with confirmation of his business address, but inevitably it drew another blank.

Although Barbara was determined to battle on and take her fight to court, she admitted they’d been instrumental in being ripped off and warned News readers to learn lessons from their experience.

She said: ‘My advice to anyone thinking of getting anyone in for home improvement work is always get all the information they can about that person before they agree on a price.

‘Also, make sure you get invoices and receipts for everything. I’m upset, angry, hurt, and annoyed. Double-check everything.’

Streetwise is keen to continue to support Barbara wherever possible and will forward her story to Hampshire trading standards business advice and compliance team..