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Roofers smushed my garden

Posted by girlndocs (My Page) on
Fri, May 30, 08 at 23:33

Argh, I have to vent and more than that I hope someone here has experience in this type of issue.

I rent my home and recently the property owner had it re-roofed. The roofers slid huge loads of debris onto my garden bed and not only crushed several plants but during "cleanup" they actually raked away dozens more. It was unbelievable. I got pictures of the piles of debris, and the wasteland-like aftermath.

I added up the damages including the cost of skilled labor to replant the plants that needed replacing and wrote to the roofing company offering to settle for $700, somewhat less than the total sum. (This was worth it to me to avoid the hassle of going to small claims court).

This morning early, in my fenced backyard, without invitation, permission or even announcing himself, the owner of the roofing company was walking around taking photos!

He says there's no way I'm getting $700 out of him and essentially implied that I was lying, that there was no way there could have been anything worth $700 in the yard to be damaged. He also says if I take him to court over it he'll countersue for his lost wages, which he assured me would be substantial, and he obviously tried to imtimidate me by saying he was contacting my landlord and property owner (which of course I already did as soon as I discovered the damage).

I am furious beyond belief that he would walk in and try to manipulate me instead of doing what's right and replacing the damage his workers did by being unbelievably careless. I really want to go ahead now and sue his sleazy behind off, but I can't find a clear answer on whether he would succeed with a countersuit -- and there's no way I could come up with payment for a countersuit if he did succeed.

And I'm left trying to replace my flowerbed, having lost most of this year's enjoyment out of it.

Kristin


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

What a shame, Kristin! I can't address the legal issues, but I do have a few questions about things that might help you make a strong case. First, do you have some photos taken before the damage to show what it used to look like? Second, do you have receipts for the plants that need to be replaced? Third, did your landlord give you notice that the roofers were coming and were you warned about possible damage to your garden?

I wonder if you might have better luck collecting directly from your landlord? Does your lease specify that you must be given advance notice in writing of any work done on the building? If it does, and if you didn't get advance notice, it seems the landlord might be liable. If you did get advance notice, I'm assuming it didn't include the fact that debris would likely fall on plantings you had paid for, as it sounds like you had no opportunity to protect your plants.

Good luck!


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

do you have some photos taken before the damage to show what it used to look like?

Nope, that's one of my biggest concerns. I have my husband who can say that there were plants there where now there are not, and that he saw me planting things like the nasturtium seedlings they raked out. The property owner and landlord were both in my yard about 3 weeks ago and saw it, but I'm not sure they noticed it much -- we were discussing the house exterior and shrubs. A very nice mow-n-blow guy who talked to me about my flowers saw it, don't know how it would go over to ask him to be a witness though.

do you have receipts for the plants that need to be replaced?

Nope :(

Third, did your landlord give you notice that the roofers were coming and were you warned about possible damage to your garden?

Well, I knew the roofers would be coming but not when. The landlord instructed them to call and give us notice before they showed up, which they never did. When I discussed the re-roofing and exterior work with the landlord it was in the context of being concerned about my garden and his assurances that it would be OK.

Up till the day they began demo on that side of the house, I assumed that all the debris was going to be pitched over the *other* edge of the house (empty lawn on that side). They told me about 20 minutes before they began demo that I should keep the kids out of the backyard because there would be stuff coming down. That was when I raised my concerns about the plants and they assured me they would "take every pain" to prevent damage. They leaned some plywood against the house over large shrubs -- broke a rosebush doing that -- and helped me to set up structures to protect the bed that ended up buried. It ended up buried because midway through demo they actually removed the structures they had helped me set up!

The majority of the damage was actually done during "cleanup". They raked straight across the flowerbed and ripped a bunch of plants out. The company owner says his guys aren't gardeners -- I say you don't need to be a gardener to know you don't rake across somebody's flowerbed!

I don't think I'd have much luck trying to get the damages paid for by my landlord. Plus I want to stay on their good side -- you know what it can make life like having a landlord who's PO'd at you, I'm sure.

I told my husband I'm seriously considering starting a blog titled something like "ROOFTOP SERVICES RUINED MY GARDEN AND WON'T PAY UP." I was kidding but sometimes it seems like a rational idea in this nightmare.

Kristin

Here is a link that might be useful: Piles of debris


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Call the police right now and report the owner of the roofing company for trespassing in your backyard. Even though it happened yesterday this concerns the police and you must involve them to prove your case. Not only did the owner of the company trespass illegally on your property, he also threatened you with a lawsuit (as he was trespassing) and this is after his company destroyed your personal property. You could also go after the landlord, but the landlord will have to go after the contractor and I don't know if it's worth destroying your landlord-tennant relationship- Unless the landlord shares your sentiment toward the roofer, then you two could team up against him.

But I think it is important to call the police and make an official complaint against the guy for trespassing, property damage and verbal threats. You could even tell the police you think the guy came in your yard yesterday to cause more damage to your garden, since the guy was clearly in an irate state of mind and you don't know what his intentions are!


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Welp, I did call the cops, and surprisingly enough he was not trespassing -- apparently because a) he had a valid reason for being there and b) he was never told NOT to be there. If he comes back he becomes "an unwanted person problem" and I can call 911.

It was a valid point to make, though, thanks. I guess this means I also won't be able to get any photos he took barred as evidence (since he obtained them legally), but that's not such a big deal, I can't think of anything he would see or photo that would damage my case.

In case he tries the "It was a weedy mess, there was no garden, there couldn't have been any plants worth $700 to damage" angle I am going to take my own pictures today of my lovely new beds.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

So, it sounds like you fixed the garden. How much did it cost you?


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

No, those are different beds, ones I was working on when the roofers were here. Not the ones that were damaged.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I do understand your feelings. I also have done roofing work on occasion-for myself. I also have heard endless complaints about landlords who will not do any maintenance on their property. So now the house has a new roof. Some of the damage to your plantings may well have been unavoidable. Since the roofer was not working for you in any sense of the word, I suggest talking with the landlord. In the end, this may be one of those instances where you have no reasonable recourse.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Unless your landlord is willing to help you out, I don't think you have a leg to stand on. We're getting ready to have work done outside our home, and I'm in the process of moving all the perennials and shrubs for the duration of the project. I've brought up with every tradesman we've interviewed about my desire to protect the plants and ALL of them have said that if we want them saved, get them out of the way.

I know how you are feeling, but I think you're going to have to salvage what you can and then start over.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

As an avid gardener I feel your pain, truly.
And lucky you, to get a new roof - they are not inexpensive!

As a landlord myself, imho it's a stretch trying to place liability on the landlord. He didn't toss down debris nor hold the rake in his hand. Those working under the supervision of the hired 'professional' roofer did. What if this were a home owner's property and the workers raked through the gardens and did damage? Would the homeowner then so readily assume liability?

Sadly without photos of what it looked like pre-damage you might not have much luck (the one you posted is dated 2004, btw.) Perhaps your landlord might have some? (I take photos before/after work like that is done for my records.)

As an aside we just had a rental roof installed last summer and the most I had to pick up on site was stray nails with a magnet and a few stray scraps of roofing paper. They had a dumpster at the house, and all debris went straight into the dumpster. Whatever side of the roof they were working on a large tarp was attached from roof to ground so any stray debris would slide down the tarp and away from the parameter of the house.



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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I don't think the roofing contracter can sue you for lost wages in small claims court....pretty sure anyway. You sound like a wonderful renter...There are two houses next to mine that are rental houses. There is no upkeep that is every done on the yards. Bushes over-grown, horrrible weeds in landscape beds, tree saplings growing out of gutters, only mow lawns when two feet high and gets citation from the city. I keep my yard nice but when I look out my living room window (upper level)I can see more of the field of weeds than my own yard.The houses were nicely kept before the owners sold to whoever now owns them and became rental properties...Anyway with a great tenent like you who wants to keep property looking nice the owner probably appreciates it. (probably raises the value of his property being kept looking nice)He may go to bat for you...talk to him about the damage done,he may agree with you.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

$700 sounds like a lot for few smushed plants. The roofer probably feels you are trying stiff him.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

The roofer probably doesn't understand how much those specific plants cost, etc, etc.

He can't countersue for "lost wages" or whatever - he's just blustering in your face - DO NOT FALL FOR THIS!

If you can find ANY proof of what was there before, ANY picture, ANY receipts, ANYTHING, you have an open-and-shut small claims case. In fact, the roofer will probably settle with you for something like $500 or so to avoid the hassle. You did make a mistake asking for $700 up f ront, less than the cost of replacement - always start out with a number HIGHER than cost of replacement for your time and inconvenience.

At this point, the roofer probably knows he's successfully intimidated you, and it seems unlikely that he's going to be very easy to deal with. A very firm hand and a willingness to go to small claims will go a LONG way. For this roofer, hiring an attorney to go to small claims will cost more than he'd pay you to settle, most likely.

Good luck - if you need more help, don't be afraid to post!


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I think there are some misunderstandings here. I'm not suing the landlord, I'm suing the roofing company. My landlord has explicitly said that this is between me and the roofing company. He's sympathetic but neutral. (I had his permission to have the gardens in the first place, btw, and in the planning stages for the exterior work he walked the yard with me so I could show him where beds and shrubs were located and so on.)

Bus Driver, there's a logical disconnect to your argument here. The landlord has a legal responsibility to provide maintenance such as replacing our rotten roof. Because he did what the law requires of him, I'm supposed to be so grateful I overlook hours and hours of labor and hundreds of dollar's worth of plants being needlessly destroyed?

And come on. You don't have to be Gertrude Jekyll to realize you don't rake straight across a bed full of plants, or to notice when you pull out a gallon size plant and toss it back in the bed that maybe something's not quite right. You really think if it had been one of those guys' garden down there, they wouldn't have found some way to protect it?

Roofer Guy may well feel I might be trying to stiff him, which is why he gets an itemized list of the plants damaged or destroyed and photos of the wreckage. But I don't believe he really thinks I have no case. If he really thinks I'm a complete loon wasting his time, why not just ignore me, or laugh in my face? Why drive miles to intimidate me?

the one you posted is dated 2004, btw.
I know. My camera dates everything 2004, forever and ever amen. I can see how this might be an issue, do you have any ideas how to fix it?

Here is my question for anyone who might have experience: what is the best way to try and fill in the gap of evidence left by my lack of pictures?

I was thinking of drawing a scale plan of the bed, on graph paper, one version showing what it looked like before the roofers worked there and one showing after. I realize I could draw a $10,000 Rare Bolivian Blue Peony in there if I wanted, so it's not the same as photos or receipts, but I wonder if providing that level of detail would be convincing that I couldn't be making it all up off the cuff?

What about having my husband as a witness? Kosher or he would be viewed as too biased? I'm really a recluse, I don't have a lot of visitors and my garden is usually my place to be alone, so I haven't showed it off to a lot of people.

I will be wracking my brain trying to think of something. I leave on a weekend trip in 6 days, and after the trip would be when I would file suit, if I file it.

Thanks,

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

"I was thinking of drawing a scale plan of the bed, on graph paper, one version showing what it looked like before the roofers worked there and one showing after. I realize I could draw a $10,000 Rare Bolivian Blue Peony in there if I wanted, so it's not the same as photos or receipts, but I wonder if providing that level of detail would be convincing that I couldn't be making it all up off the cuff?"

Nothing you do or prepare after the fact is going to be of any help to you. Lawsuits deal in facts, and without documentation in the way of current photographs and receipts you have no facts to back you up- it's a matter of he said she said.

Don't you have anything- canceled checks or credit card statements? Even a gardeners journal detailing the design and planting?

Without clear documented proof you are wasting your time.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

20 years ago i worked for a roofing company. our policy was to TRY and prevent damage to beds around the home, but this was not always possible. we would put up plywood to divert falling debirs away, but sometimes it would still get on the beds or it was necessary to remove it to get the last little bit or haul up supplies.

should the company have made a better effort, based on YOUR description yes they should. can you prove what they destroyed, no you cannot with what you say you have. you could have had 10,000.00 worth of plants there or you could have had 30.00 worth of plants there. with no PROPERLY DATED evidence to back you up, you are most likely SOL.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Good news! Someone on another forum tipped me off that sometimes retailers can provide duplicate receipts, if you give them the date of the purchase. And I went through my bank records and found the transactions for 5 of the plants that were destroyed or completely removed. So I'm hoping I can get documentation for those.

Some of the others I did find pictures of after I went through every one of my photos one by one (instead of looking where pictures of the garden should be).

I would like t get stronger evidence that these guys should have been more careful. As I say, I talked to a number of roofers about it, but I realize that's not going to do much in court. I could ask for an affidavit, but I also understand that an affidavit is not worth much because it can't be cross-examined. This leaves asking these other roofers (who have no involvement with me other than being kind and courteous enough to answer my questions) to appear as expert witnesses. I don't think I have a very good chance of that but I'll try to get at least one.

I am also going to ask the yard service guy my landlord sent over to appear as a witness. He was working around that bed 2 weeks before the roofers came, and saw that it was full of plants and that I was planting in it. He probably can't swear as to what kind of plants they were, but no matter how you slice it a bed full of plants is not worth $30. I mean I bought all this stuff on sale (even had some given to me) and it's still all adding up to hundreds of dollars.

What about having my husband as a witness?

Thanks,

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

IMO, for a witness to "count" they'd have to be impartial, and your husband won't be viewed as such.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

More good news! This roofing company already has an "unsatisfactory" record with the Better Business Bureau for failure to respond to a complaint.

Plus, my husband reminded me we have a timestamped log of the panicked instant messages I sent him at the very moment I discovered the damage. And I found copies of emails I wrote to friends about my plans for that bed, the shopping for plants, etc.

I will be filing suit in about a week, after I come back from vacation.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I think that if you planted the plants yourself you shouldn't expect to recoup the cost of the plants plus skilled labor to plant them. If I were you I wouldn't want to be seen as padding the claim. It could put you other legitamte losses in a more doubtful light. I would try to keep it as completely factual as possible. If you planted nasturtiums from seed don't try to claim the cost of plants. I know that you are furious and I would be too, but you don't want to appear to be trying to soak the guy you're mad at - you want to appear to be trying to recoup actual losses.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Labor is counted as a loss/damage. My labor in planting the garden has value, which the court will recognize.

And I didn't lose seeds, I lost nasturtium seedlings, so seedlings is what I would have to replace -- and my local nursery sells those for $4 apiece.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Kristin - I'm not a lawyer, so you may be right. I just have a hard time imagining that if I spent a few hours and $4 planting 100 nasturtiums in my yard that I could claim that since it would cost $650 to have a landscaper plant 100 mature plants that I should be compensated $650.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

so seedlings is what I would have to replace -- and my local nursery sells those for $4 apiece

Wow, that's incredibly steep for a seedling, considering an investment of a couple bucks would net an entire packet of nasturtium seeds that would germinate in a few weeks into seedlings when sown directly into the garden. I purchased nearly all my annuals from the Proven Winners line this year, 4" pots ranging from $3.29 to $3.69/pot at most, and those are nicely branched and well developed healthy plants grown for several months minimum under optimal greenhouse conditions. Many are nearly at full maturity height. A nursery charging $4 for a newly germinated seed that has only developed a single stem with a leaf set or two is so outlandish I'd sure be shopping somewhere else.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

A nursery charging $4 for a newly germinated seed that has only developed a single stem with a leaf set or two is so outlandish I'd sure be shopping somewhere else.

Ah, but that's not what I said they were selling :)

I wintersow my nasturtiums, transfer them to 4" pots and finally plant them in the ground when they have a handful of true leaves and look sturdy enough to withstand the elements. Mine are slightly smaller on top than what the nursery offers, but have bigger root systems, so I think it's a fair comparison. Apparently we mean different things by "seedling" -- I don't mean literally a newly sprouted plant, I mean they're still kids.

Mind you I would probably never pay $4/nasturtium myself, and I pity the fool who put himself in the position of paying for these now.

Mostone, as far as I know landscapers don't charge differently whether the annuals they install are mature or not (trees and large shrubs being different of course). If they come out to your place, get down on their knees and plant a lot of plants, they're a-chargin' for it. Anyway, I averaged the estimates I got from local garden services when I called and asked, so I feel confident in the amount I ended up with.

You could argue that a can of paint only costs about $15, but I guarantee you if somebody throws eggs all over the side of your house and you sue them, you'll be suing for considerably more than the cost of the paint (probably even if you did the original paint job yourself). Same difference as far as I can tell.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Well, I'll be curious about the outcome - please keep us updated.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Kristin-
Wow, what a mess they created. We recently had our roof replaced and they backed a dumpster right up to the edge of the roof and threw the debris right into it. Not much ended up on the ground. They did crack 3 of our skylights during demolition (about $700 or so) and replaced them with no problem. BTW, the roofing company had taken "before" photos and used those to confirm that the skylights weren't already cracked before the demolition. (Moral of the story- take "before" photos before having any work done- something most people probably never think to do, myself included)

Have you tried contacting the small claims court to see if this guy can even countersue for lost wages in order to appear in court? I kind of doubt it, but it seems like the court clerk should be able to clarify that. He seems like the type that might not appear anyway. Good luck! Jerks like this give the roofing industry a bad image.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

They can countersue for anything you like. Wether or not they can win is another story.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I doubt anything will come of it. Companies can drag this out forever and without receipts or photos to back a claim it's going to be difficult to go to small claims with 'he said, she said'.
I have a friend who lost his home due to a company's negligence (explosion) and they're still in litigation after 18 months.

If you go forward, I think the best you can do is take in pics of all your property to show the type landscape you have. Hate to say this, but since it appears all the plants were annuals/perrennials you probably won't get much in a settlement.


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you need to learn how to negotiate maturley

While I am an avid gardner, I'd have to say that you really need to pick your battles. You must be under 40 to have the time and energy to put into this lawsuit! Just go out and get some more bedding plants! A good worded complaint(i.e. not attack to the roofer in the first place might have netted you some cash to buy some new bedding plants. I can see why he turned on your at the suggestion that they were worth over $700!


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I think that if you read the thread carefully you'll see that the total damages done were more than $700 and that the plants destroyed alone would cost almost $500 for me to replace (and I can itemize every dollar of it). That is a month's groceries for my family.

If I came into your yard and yanked out or crushed plants that would cost a month of groceries to replace would you be so fast to get over it and just replace them?

It's funny that you mention time and energy because the only way I afforded the plants in that bed in the first place was by doing things like dumpster diving and selling my finds on Craigslist, growing extra plants to trade or sell, selling handmade things on Etsy, doing yard work for friends and family to earn a couple dollars here and there. One plant at a time.

Lots and lots of my time and energy was invested in my garden. I don't have the luxury of simply forking out the cash to fix it and moving on.

The roofing company owner had a choice: he could man up, do the right thing and replace the stuff his workers damaged, or he could make it necessary for me to take him to court to assert my legal rights. He's not a victim here.

Kristin


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I'd be curious about whether (in the eyes of the law) plants that are in the ground of a piece of property that you rent can be considered your personal property. By planting them in the ground, are you essentially giving them to the owner?

Maybe the owner could win a lawsuit against the roofing company, but could the renter?

Morally right and wrong do not always correspond to legally right and wrong.

I'm curious as to how this turns out. Please keep us posted.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Kristen,

I think that you are preparing well for a small claims action. While photos and receipts for the plants would be very helpful, your testimony, and that of others who can comment on the condition of the garden can be sufficient evidence. But you will need live bodies to testify, affidavits and letters are not sufficient.

I would be shocked that any state law would allow the roofer to prevail on a countersuit for time lost for going to court. I also wouldn't get your hopes up for lost wages, but I think replacement plant value is a reasonable request.

Johanna

N.B. No lawyer client relationship has been formed and no legal advice given.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

nessie - feeling mean are we? I paid for an installed over $3k worth of shrubs, trees and perennials last year. It was back breaking work and I did it all (removal of the old and installation of the new) in the course of two very long weekends with the help of some relatives. So if a roofer came and trampled on my new landscaping should I just suck it up and pick my battles?? sometimes it not just the money part - its the point of contractors who have a lack of respect for others property and show a total disregard for the time and money a homeowner may have put into a project. Personally I think that hurts more than the monetary loss.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

i think nessie meant that in this situation, with no real proof of value, it was better to fight another battle. for the sake of the OP, i hope they can resolve it. but unless she comes up with more proof, i doubt she gets asking price.

the value of this is so small, relatively speaking, that i doubt he can even file it on his insurance. most company insurance policies have at least a 1000.00 deduct. so she may be able to get him to settle for less, but honestly i think she has blown that opportunity with him already. sounds like he thinks if he fights it he will either win in court or she will get tired of it and just drop it.

if nothing else the OP can now recommend that anyone she know NOT use this guy for work.

as to the post above about planting at a rental. when we used to rent it was in our contract that we HAD to leave the flower beds as they were. if we adding any plantings, they become part of the property and must be left when we vacated.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

I can't comment on you taking or not taking legal action. I will tell you it is a long drawn out process that usually hardly seems worth the headache. To me that is.

But..........to me the best way to a company is word of mouth. We all ask friends, family, neighbors who did something for them that we like. So the reverse is also true - just make certain any and everyone you know whom need roof repair do not use that company. Word of mouth can make or break a company, unfortunately.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

OP- You have filed a formal complaint with the BBB, right?
That would be on his permanent record, and any future clients of his would be checking there anyway.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Can we get an update on either the out of ocurt settlement or the (I assume) pending case? I was interested and so were others, if a renter had a right to things that were planted in rental property. How goes it?


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Bump!


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

"Bump!"

Whatever for?
She will update when something happens... or not.


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RE: Roofers smushed my garden

Hi there.

The mediation meeting for my suit was supposed to be tomorrow, but it's been moved ... to freakin' DECEMBER.

I'll post when there's any developments.

Kristin


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