Report: #641216

Complaint Review: Ann Johnson

  • Submitted: Thu, September 16, 2010
  • Updated: Wed, September 22, 2010
  • Reported By: Arthur — Dallas Georgia USA
  • Ann Johnson
    1008 Frank Kirk Road
    Kennesaw, Georgia
    United States of America

Ann Johnson Johnson Design Group Unprofessional, Negligent, Incompetent, & Overcharging in a backyard landscaping project. Kennesaw, Georgia

*REBUTTAL Individual responds: Client loses Job, refuses to talk, tries to extract large sums of money

*Author of original report: Con Artist

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Landscape contractor was hired for a backyard project.  This landscape contractor was found listed in the Better Business Bureau as an accredited business, with no complaints, and a satisfactory rating.  This landscape contractor was also listed as a landscape architect, designer, and contractor. 

After over $31,000.00 was paid into this project, which was already over the last signed contract modification, this landscape contractor stated that an additional $12,000.00 would be needed to finish the project.  By this time the majority of the work had been done, including the heavy work of building retaining walls, laying in fill dirt, sod, and numerous plants.  Work was stopped at this point and we requested a full and detailed accounting of all money spent on this project (which we never received).  At this time the contractor left the work site and never returned (this was late January, 2009).  Our next contact was by email and telephone, where this contractor threatened to have a lien placed on our house, hoping to force us to pay what this contractor believed was owed. 

Prior to the end of work on this project, it was found out that this contractor had their license administratively revoked in 2001 (reasons unknown).  Also prior to the end of work, the stone caps on top of our retaining walls had cracked in several places along the length of all walls.  When the contractor was notified of these cracks, and other obvious problems that had begun to develop, the contractor stated it would cost more money to have any repairs made.   

For our protection, we retained the services of an attorney, and a lawsuit was filed in order to force this contractor to pay for any and all repairs or modifications that would be needed.  The legal issue lasted from March, 2009, to September 2010, at which time the contractor filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection.  During this period of time we had an independent landscape contractor, a soil reinforcement specialist company, a local county inspector, and a local county engineer, conduct inspections of our backyard project.  We even had a sales representative for the block manufacturer (the type used in all the retaining walls) inspect the walls.  All these inspections showed that the majority of the construction on this project was all wrong.

The inspections revealed that all the walls were not built in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications, nor were they in compliance with the county codes or any inspection criteria.  The fill dirt was laid in too soon, with too much, and with no Geo-grid for stabilizing the fill dirt.  The drainage system is insufficient and improper for what is needed.  As time has passed, there are numerous locations on all the retaining walls that show the blocks are separating, and parts of the walls are being pushed out beyond a vertical line.  Certain sections of the large wall are in danger of falling apart.  As a result of this construction, we now have drainage and erosion problems with other parts of our backyard.

This contractor misrepresented herself as a licensed contractor when she wasn't; she failed to obtain any permits; failed to have any in-progress inspections; failed to build our walls in accordance with codes and specifications; failed to stabilize the fill dirt; failed to install a proper drainage system; and overcharged us on every aspect of the project, to include the cost of all plantings.

This contractor has committed fraud against us with her business dealings; she has displayed incompetence and negligence in her job performance and bookkeeping; she shows poor work ethics, and will not admit to any culpability in her job performance. 

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#1 REBUTTAL Individual responds

Client loses Job, refuses to talk, tries to extract large sums of money

AUTHOR: Johnson Design Group - (USA)

Client loses Job, refuses to talk, tries to extract large sums of money Johnson Design group has been in business for 15 years and this is the first time we have had to take a client to court. The problem began in response to this email letter From:

Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2009 9:45 PM To: .com Subject: Money, or the lack of it A: Now that I'm about to lose my primary source of income by losing my job, I've had to do some serious thinking over the weekend concerning my backyard project. I've paid $31,100.00 into the project so far, and I'm trying to keep this thing from turning into my personal money pit. At this point I can't pay any more into this project until I find out where my next job is coming from. I do want to get this done, but I can't afford to keep paying into it. What's been paid for, plant it; what hasn't, cancel it. I've talked about getting a loan, but without a good paying job, and the benefits that come with it, securing a loan and making payments isn't the smart thing to do right now.

The project is looking good, and I've got some ideas for some future jobs in the front of the house, but I'll have to call a halt for now until I've got more dead presidents coming in than I have going out.

A----- When client lost his job, we did as he asked, which was about $1,800.00 final planting, we ALSO added up all the wish list items , the client and his wife had added over the past 5 months and the costs for his next phase.

During the installation process there were several Change Orders in written detail by existing additional requests. Increasing the height of the Belgard wall.

We kept The Client abreast every day on all additions outside of his original contract. The original design was coming in at approximately 3 times the signed contract. (see at the bottom.) This seemed to upset him greatly. He refused to discuss any of his options of why all the additional add-ons that he asked for that werent in the original contract werent included in his $19,000.00 request. The miscommunication again was what he wanted in the future, and what was actually put in. The work is still unpaid for, although installed. As best as I can tell the client believed he had to pay for them, again I tried to explain, the client and his wife had added many more plants that what was on the original quote. I believe this is where the communication broke down. Unfortunately he refused to have any discussions. Or understand the difference between NEED and his WANT list. At this point the client abdicated and let his wife take on his project. The difficult part was that the wife was only allowed to look at the project as it was being built, and from a distance. She was allowed to have some input after the client got more comfortable with his wife adding her comments, but only for short periods of time.

The clients wife was never privy to any of the information of cost or what the client wanted, what was being signed and discussed, at least that was what was apparent from our conversations during the 5 months we worked there. The Client then went to Stone Forest and asked for the receipts so they could do their own audit. I called Kelly at Stone Forest, and I gave the blessing to give him any information as well as Tom at John Deere Nursery.

I met with the clients wife, January 26th. The client was suppose to be there, when I asked where he was, she said he refused to meet.

Again since she had no prior knowledge at any of the previous meetings, or with cost. It was difficult to get her up to speed in an several hours, but my team had invested a great deal of time with getting spreadsheets prepared for options as well as what was spent through out the whole project .

At the end of the meeting in there was is approximately $240.00 worth of work to wrap up the complete job.

The $240.00 consisted of fertilizing, pre-emergents and cleanup of some remaining pallets for sod. There was a crack in the a few of the stone caps that needed minor repair at no charge. At this point they were minor, approximately 1/8, but this was to be done at no charge.

I did tell her since Belgard is designed not to have footings poured in place, I told her that the client knew there would be movement. See specifications for type of retaining wall. That we would not come out till the end of time repairing hairline cracks in the mortar, but if anything was wrong, as our contract stated we would repair any problems.( see contract below.) The stone caps and the stone boulders were stunning the caps are two inches thick cut stone. These cracks would very a bit but would average 1/8 over a period of time I asked the Clients wife if I could have my foreman come out and do the work first thing Monday morning, and pickup the remaining check, would that be alright? She said yes, ( at that point I would like to believe she meant it, because she had been quite gracious up to that point.) She would talk to her husband and have us finish up Monday, but she would call and let us know their answer. The call never came, no answers to emails, or our phone calls. I was out sick the next week, the office wrote a letter, at the end of 30 days later and encourage them to stop avoiding us, that we didnt want to take it to the next level. We shared with the Client and his wife at this point over the last 3 months on installation had been given numerous discounts, and we were well over our budget that we had eaten quite a bit of our profit to keep our client happy, and felt that it was time for the client step to the plate. The Client wanted the work done, but did not attempt to pay. We believed we had been more than fair to allow the client look at all the invoices. There was no reason for not being paid. At this point the client contacted the Belgard representative for this area, Andrew Harris , meet with the clients wife, not the client, but was walking around the property, but did not engage in the conversation, the client stayed in the background. He assumed the wife was the client. Andrew told the wife, The wall as far as I can tell looks okay to me. Johnson Design Group has been around a long time and if they did poor I would have heard about it long before now. I would suggest that if the wall is going to move it will be in the next 6 months. At that point I would recommend you monitor it and meet with Johnson Design Group, and I am sure they will make it right. Andrew and I had a discussion the next day after the meeting and he share this information with me. We are very interest in preserving our name, and that is done by taking care of problems. The clients wife


The Clients wife contacted the Inspector David Worman AT PAULDING COUNTY. I contacted him to find out what was going on, the clients wife said he had come to the property and had said not to pay us. When I asked if he had a problem with the wall he told me the his conversation went like this. The Clients wanted him to come out, and David said, I told them I wanted nothing to do with this project, that this type of complaint needed to be inspected by a structural engineer.

6 19 2009 we received a fax from SRDI. Showing what areas were out of specifications. We knew that because we had advised the client that it would not be wise to raise the wall. SRDI, is an Engineering firm that the client contacted. Johnson Design Group, started using them back in 2005, and our subcontractor has been using SRDI Soil Reinforcement Design, Inc. (437 Creekstone Riddge Woodstock, GA 30188,) for years on projects. The subcontractor and I were both very familiar with their work, and use their services. The owner of SRDI talked to our subcontractor and stated that after the inspection there was approximately 15 feet and 18 out of specifications in different areas. Unfortunately, JDG did what the client asked for. When the Client wished to add on several extra feet higher against our numerous recommendations not to, we went ahead and did as he asked. At that point we should have insisted on bringing in SRDI to reinforce our position, and not to raise the wall. Up to this point we were still feeling okay with the structural integrity of the wall. . We were not aware of anything physically looking wrong, just not in specifications. Engineer, and architect, and well as site can and do have different specifications. None the less we were willing to stand behind the repair at mediation. With the combination of soils and height of the wall caused the problem. The last picture I saw of the walls there were gaps that pencils could fit between the block, not good. The approximate cost out of pocket for us would have been about $5,000.00. to repair this, and JDG offered to. We took total ownership of this problem.

The client went and got their own bid at $40,000.00, For a repair? Several mediations took place, the wife was willing to compromise, as stated by our Lawyer. The client was not interest in fixing the problem but asking for cash at an inflated price.

Other details: Please look under QUOTES DO NOT INCLUDE A for Permitting. This is the contract that our client signed was read out loud and discussed, which pertains to the other comments. My degree is in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois, please see item B. under the work set forth. CONDITIONS OF CONTRACT THESE CONDITIONS ARE A PART OF YOUR CONTRACT, PLEASE READ THEM CAREFULLY.


All soil amenities, initial watering, select pruning, tree wrap, labor and materials as specified. All material shall be as specified in this contract and Johnson Design Group guarantees to use top quality seed, sod and plant materials under all contracts. All work to be completed in a workmanlike manner according to standard practices.

A. To the extent of the work set forth in this contract requires Johnson Design Group shall act as design architect and general contractor which work shall include, to the extent applicable, the design of your landscaping plan as well as the coordination and supervision of subcontractors in performing the work. These services are provided by Johnson Design Group as part of your total contract price and include a premium of 10% to 15% above subcontractors amount for various portions of the work depending on the nature of the work performed by the subcontractor. However, any such premium on subcontractors services is included as part of your total contract price.


Watering and Maintenance. Other than initial watering at the time of installation Johnson Design group is not responsible for watering, or maintaining after installation unless otherwise stated in writing.


Tree staking and Guying. Under certain conditions, the type or size of a plant or site conditions may require that a plant be staked. This will be determined by and at the sole discretion of Johnson Design Group. Should staking/guying be necessary, a time and material charge will be added as an extra to this contract. In most cases staking guying is not necessary. To keep costs down we do not include this work in our contract price. 3.

Additional Seeding. Re-seeding of grass or sod may be required due to insects, mechanical damage, neglect, under watering, over watering, weather, natural disaster, disease or animals, or timing restrictions such as late season or early season seeding. Any such re-seeding or sod is not included unless otherwise stated in writing and will be charged as an extra to this contract. 4.

Unit Prices. The total contract price is the only guaranteed price included in this contract. Any change in materials or services under the original contract may result in an increase in individual unit prices. 5.

Time and Materials. Any work specified as Time and Material will be charged as an extra to this contract. C.

GUARANTEE: (a) Plant Material Guarantee 1.

We will replace, once without charge, any tree, shrub, evergreen or vine that dies within one year of the date of delivery, subject to the qualifications listed below. 2.

We will not replace plants killed by insects, mechanical damage, neglect, under watering, over watering, weather, natural disaster, disease or animals. We will not guarantee plants planted in pots or planter boxes. We will not guarantee the life of transplanted plant material. Flowers, groundcover, grass seeds, sod, seeds, bulbs and roses are not guaranteed. 3.

Our guarantee is expressly conditioned upon your payment of your invoice when due and your use of normal plant care and maintenance, such as the appropriate amount of watering. 4.

All claims for loss must be reported in writing within the guarantee period.

(B) General Contractor=s Guarantee


We will guarantee any work or materials installed as part of this contract for a period of one (1) year from the date of delivery or installation, as the case may be, of the particular work performed or materials delivered, subject to the qualifications listed below. 2.

Our guarantee is expressly conditioned upon your payment of your invoice when due and your use of normal care and maintenance of the work and improvements made by Johnson Design Group under this contract. Our guarantee does not include normal war and tear nor does it cover damage to improvements or materials resulting from owner=s negligence, water damage, inclement weather, acts of God and

unforeseen circumstance or occurrence beyond our control.

3. All claims for loss must be reported in writing within the guarantee period described

below. A. PERMITS: All building permits are the responsibility of the client unless otherwise stated.




Any work associated with unknowns such as underground obstacles (i.e. old buried foundations, septic tanks, storage tanks, driveways, structures, etc.) or environmental problems, shall be charged as an extra to this contract. 4.

Johnson Design Group obligations under this contract and the delivery of service and materials hereunder is contingent upon strikes, accidents, shortages of materials, inclement weather, act of God and unforeseen delays. F.

OWNERS RESPONSIBILITIES: In addition to the location of underground utilities described above it is your responsibility as owner to provide the following: 1.

Water supply. An adequate water supply (i.e. standard silcox that will accommodate a standard garden hose with at least 30lbs. of head pressure at 200ft.) shall be readily available on site within 200 ft. of watering needs of this contract. If this supply is not available and /or dependable, it would result in an added charge and loss of plant guarantee.


SITE DRAINAGE: Unless otherwise stated Johnson Design Group is not responsible for site drainage or damage to plants caused by poor site drainage.

A. PLANT SUBSTITUTION: Plants of other kinds or different sizes than those specified in the plant list can be substituted with approval of designer and with notice to you. Although this is the exception and not the rule, sometimes quality plants for one reason or another are not available and a substitution on equal of better quality will be made.

B. SEEDING AND SOD: Seeding is susceptible to certain timing restrictions so if our job is progressing during an undesirable seeding time, the seeding will be re-scheduled or in the alternative, at your request sod can be installed at an additional charge. C. TERMS OF PAYMENT: A non refundable deposit equal to 50% of the quoted contract price is required upon acceptance of this contract. At Johnson Design Groups election, invoices are sent at the end of each week for labor draw and the final third after the work described in this contract is completed. Payment in the full amount of each invoice is due upon receipt. Accounts remaining unpaid 30days past invoice date will lose the plant guarantee and will be charged interest at the rate of 1.5% per month on the amount unpaid.

ORDER OF EVENTS Johnson Design Group referred to at JDG Clients Project. Johnson Design Group was hired by the client on August 8 24 08 to consult on how to design the back yard and for possibly designing and installing his back yard that met his wants and needs. A Design questionnaire was sent in preparation of the meeting. The list of his specific needs and requirements were: listed on a one to three scale, the ones were: Trash storage, Retaining wall, fencing, and open yard space, drainage and nature/wildflower. Twos were: Wildlife area, patio area, irrigation system, and storage shed. Threes were: Landscape lighting, walks around the site, dog run , containerized plant, and seating walls. JDG met with him several times to discuss the design in his back yard. Contacts calls, emails, and meetings when on throughout September. Once the Design Agreement was signed at a discount for $100.00 JDG began measuring, taking height elevations with transit, taking pictures and preparing a conceptual design that was presented on September 17th 2008. There continued more changes that were made to the conceptual for the next through November 20th before the actual contract was signed. The design continued to change up to the last week at Clients s request. The full afternoon on the 22th on October was spent visiting Stone Forest to look at various materials patterns and design for the wall steps and planting.

Other books and various designs were presented and reviewed and changed by Client. A total of 12 conceptual designs were reworked. The final design was presented along with a preliminary cost estimate as in the Design. Arthur made a decision on the look he wanted on the Celtic wall . Boulders 2.8 tons stepping stones

$1,200.00 to $1,800.00 Block wall 75 l.f. 4.5 H

$5,800.00 Install #57 Stone for footer and gravel in all blocks Backfill

$1,500.00 Stone cap 3 Crab orchard (for above wall)

$2,250.00 Grading

$2,000.00 Plantings

$1,800.00 to $3,500.00 Job cost allowance

0 Total

The Contract was signed for $19,995.00 There was a deposit of $2000.00 + $4000.00 with starting Date of 11 29 08.

The space looked gorgeous in my humble opinion. It is to bad all that time and money was wasted in not letting us repair our work. Please visit our website to see more of our work and our clients comments at

We have been using this subcontractor for years without any problems. We stand behind our work as well as take on responsibility for our subcontractors.

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#2 Author of original report

Con Artist

AUTHOR: Arthur Southwick - (USA)

As of September, 2010, parts of the drainage system installed at the base of the retaining wall is showing signs of being collapsed.  
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