BALTIMORE — Skyrocketing gas prices and a labor shortage forced a local lawn care company to cease operations for the year.
Residential Lawn notified its customers a few weeks ago that it was shutting down for the season and would not be issuing refunds. Instead, the company is holding payments and issuing vouchers for services in 2023, according to an email sent to customers.
Charlotte Hoffman, a customer of Residential Lawn for several years, paid the company $240 for the 2022 season.
“They were consistent. They mowed my lawn every 7-10 days through 2019, 2020, and 2021. I didn’t foresee a problem in 2022,” said Hoffman, who lives in Anne Arundel County.
Caitlin Rettaliata and Susan Kleinsasser live in Baltimore County and each paid the company around $250.
“All the lawns go one into the other, so it’s nice they do it in one fell swoop,” said Rettaliata, a customer since 2019.
Residential Lawn specifically services townhomes. The women added that in each of their home developments, Residential Lawn took care of most of their neighbor’s lawns.
“Atleast 30, probably closer to 40 people on this street that they have as customers,” said Kleinsasser.
But suddenly the company stopped coming. Their grass became overgrown and an email followed shortly after.
In that email, the business added that: “Bankruptcy would protect us from any refunds or services moving forward. BUT WE ARE NOT TAKING THAT ROUTE. We will provide the services that you have paid for in 2023.”
“Immediately, I requested a refund and that has gone unanswered,” said Hoffman.
WMAR-2 News’ Mallory Sofastaii tried contacting the business. The owner, Michael Buell, didn’t answer her calls and declined an interview.
He did respond via text messages writing in part:
“We worked extremely hard for 10 years to amass 1700+ clients. That's not something that we wanted to throw away. But we either sized down our operations or completely went out of business. ... We make just enough to operate and survive. We have not raised our prices in 9 years. We cost HALF OF WHAT EVERY OTHER COMPANY. $200 FOR AN ENTIRE SEASON. We offer free lawn service to active police and medical professionals since 2015.”
-Michael Buell, owner, Residential Lawn
Rettaliata said she would’ve considered paying more for their services, or deferred to next year if she’d been given a choice.
“Labor shortages, and all kinds of supply chain issues, gas prices I assume all that would affect a landscaping company, so yah, that would’ve been fine,” said Rettaliata.
These neighbors, however, also know it’s a large operation. They may not have paid an excessive amount but combined it’s thousands of dollars. And in this economic climate, they too need to put that money to use.
“I’m retired, there are people in the neighborhood who are single parents, it’s rough. You can’t just kind of throw that money away and we’ve got to hire someone new,” said Kleinsasser.
“I paid for services, I expected for them to fulfill their obligations and they haven’t and I would like some type of remedy or recourse,” Hoffman added.
Buell told Sofastaii via text that he now plans to offer full refunds to all customers in Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties. They’ll need to respond to his email with proof of payment then he’ll process a refund within 30 to 45 days. He said those refund emails would go out over the weekend, but Kleinsasser and Hoffman said they haven’t yet received anything.
Customers with business disputes can contact the Maryland Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division by clicking here.
Or they can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.