ALL pensioner couple Jeanette and Gary Zeller wanted was a new lawn for their Toowoomba home.
Three frustrating years down the track and $5000 out of pocket, the Zellers are still without a new lawn - and the contract gardener responsible hasn't repaid a cent.
Mr and Mrs Zeller, both in their 70s, have reluctantly gone public to warn others about the pitfalls of having work done at home.
It was February, 2011 when the Zellers engaged a then contract gardener for $4000 to lay new turf at their home with three months of ongoing maintenance.
"We offered to pay $3000 now and a further $1000 when the job was finished," Mrs Zeller said.
"But he said 'no, no, that's not how we do it here', and demanded all the money up front so I paid him $4000 cash."
Because much of the Zellers' yard is covered in shade, the couple ordered buffalo grass but were amazed to find the gardener had laid kikuyu.
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"Kikuyu was never an option," Mr Zeller said.
"By April the lawn was in a terrible state and several emails to the gardener went unanswered.
"By July, the lawn was non-existent, full of weeds and brown patches with dead grass everywhere."
The Zellers engaged a lawyer who wrote letters to the gardener demanding reimbursement for the substandard work but there were no replies.
Already out of pocket, the couple then took the matter to court through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The gardener failed to show up at mediation.
Proceedings continued until December, 2012, when the Zellers hand-delivered court documents with a covering letter demanding immediate attention, to no avail.
"Three times he was summoned to court and three times he didn't show up," Mrs Zeller said.
Eventually, a warrant was served on the gardener who was brought into court in handcuffs in October last year.
He agreed to reimburse the Zellers $1900 - the cost of the turf, but not labour.
"He said he would pay in three months, saying 'three months is how it is done in this industry', yet we had to pay him up front," Mrs Zeller said.
"We never saw that money either.
"Then on January 26 (this year) the company was deregistered."
The Zellers gave up on a new lawn and have instead laid cypress wood chips.
"We eventually won judgment of $4090 and got none of it," Mrs Zeller said.
"Why are people not being taken to task over their wrongdoings?
"Why are they just walking away unscathed while the subjects of their wrongdoings are left holding the bag."
If you have a similar problem go to www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au
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