Landscaper's incomplete work frustrates Durham homeowners

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A landscaper in Durham is frustrating homeowners who hired him to fix their yards (WTVD)

Some Durham homeowners are out hundreds of dollars, some even thousands after a quick-talking landscaper didn't finish his jobs.

The homeowners say they are speaking out hoping to prevent others from their frustrations.

Roland Alexander hired Javier Espinosa in November for some landscaping needs around his house. While Espinosa did power wash Alexander's home and partially completed a rock garden, the main job never got finished.

Espinosa was supposed to build a patio, sitting wall, and fire pit.

"I got a hole and I got a partial pit," Alexander shared.

Homeowner Roland Alexander said Espinosa left this mess behind

Alexander said Espinosa continued to promise to complete the work, but he never showed.

"I thought he would at least bring the materials because he kept on saying he needed money for materials," Alexander explained. "But as you can see, the material that we've got is just left over from other jobs that he's done."

In all, Alexander paid Espinosa $3,520, but he didn't get what he paid for.

"Well the last time I spoke with him I said 'Well, it's been four months, and I can build a house in four months and it shouldn't take that long to build a patio. So if you cannot do this by next week, just return the money.' He said 'I promise I'll have it done for you by next week or I'll have your money,' and of course, he didn't."

Bonnie Milam had the same frustrations. She hired Espinosa in December to pressure wash her home, along with some other landscaping jobs which included leveling out her back yard and putting in a retaining wall.

She says he edged up the yard, pressure washed the home, and removed some trees for her.

"He started off good," Milam said.

When it came to the big jobs of leveling out the yard and the retaining wall, though, Milam said he fell short.

"He put this retaining wall in that I think is just junk," Milam said.

While it is partially done, it's clearly not finished.

"The progress that's been made here is the stuff I've done. I called him he said, 'I'll be here tomorrow,' or sometimes he wouldn't pick up the phone."

In all, she paid Espinosa $4,418. One red flag in her case, when she would pay him by check, she says he would ask her to make the check out to other people or leave the payee blank. She says she would ask, "Why do you want me to give you a blank check? He would say he didn't have his ID with him to cash the check at the bank."

Homeowner Rob Dejournett is also out $700 after paying Espinosa to do a job. Espinosa was hired to sand and repaint Dejournett's deck.

Rob Dejournett

"He was a really good talker. He kind of does this, I'll do half for this guy and go to the next job, half here and go to the next," Dejournett said.

Dejournett said Espinosa has called several times saying he'll show up, but that hasn't happened.

I've also heard from several other homeowners who say they hired Espinosa, who they know as Leo. They tell me he does just enough work to get paid, and then when it comes time to finishing the jobs, he doesn't complete the work.

I talked to Espinosa on the phone several times. He said he's been busy and the weather has caused many of the delays, but he would get the work done.

Espinosa said he just needed a week to finish the job on Alexander's home, and if he didn't finish he would refund Alexander his money. That week came and went, and after more than two weeks of waiting, I caught up with Espinosa.

Espinosa said he was "working on" getting the jobs done. When I remind him it's been months since he started the jobs, he said, "Yeah, you got it."

"As soon as I can I'm going to come to them face to face and I'm going to work it out, because I'm going to be honest with you, they are good people and I want to get it done," Espinosa told me.

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Troubleshooter Diane Wilson confronts Javier Espinosa amid reports that he doesn't complete landscaping jobs

He also added the homeowners have done nothing wrong, but he's had trouble finding good workers.

"They gave me good money when I started working, and they know I can do the job that's why they gave me the work, it's just behind, behind, behind a little but, it's just some guys not coming to work," Espinosa said.

I asked him why he asks his customers to leave the payee blank on the checks.

"Well because, I don't have an account at the bank."

I questioned how he owns a company and doesn't have a bank account. He said he does have one and then he said he would go open one. He also cleared up the confusion on his name, some homeowners know his as Javier Espinosa, other as Leo. His Facebook page is Javy Espinoza, which the last name is spelled differently than what's on the contracts, which is Espinosa. He said his real full name is Leo Javier Espinoza, and he doesn't mean to cause any confusion over it.

In the end, Espinosa did promise to make it right with the homeowners.

"I'm going to get it done. They are good people, but it's not too late to do the right thing."

While Alexander, Milam, and Dejournett tell me they have heard from him on the phone several times about plans to finish the jobs, they all tell me he has not shown up to actually complete the work. At this point, they all say they don't expect he'll ever finish the jobs, but just want to let others know what they have been through.

"He would say 'I'll be there in an hour or I'll be there in two days, or I'll be there next week,' and we'll wait but he's just a no show," Alexander said.

The Better Business Bureau offers several tips when it comes to hiring Lawn Care Companies. Don't just hire a company, because a representative shows up at your door and says they can do the work. Check their references, and go check out their work in person and talk to their previous customers to see if they had any problems. Also getting everything in writing, and set up a payment schedule. Stick with that schedule, and do not pay ahead of the schedule unless you feel comfortable with the work that has been done so far.
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