A Calgary woman says the questionable tactics of a local landscaping company had her facing a bill that is nearly 150 per cent larger than the price she was quoted.

Colleen Kalanuk, who has limited mobility due to complications of diabetes, says she recently turned to the classified ads to hire someone to tend to the lawn of the home she rents. “It was the first place I thought to look. Everybody looks at Kijiji,” said Kalanuk. “I found this ad and it looked perfect.”

Kalanuk contacted and hired what she thought was an individual who cut grass on the side at an agreed price. On the day her yard was to be mowed, she discovered she had hired a company and the $39 quote was only an estimate.

Confused, the tenant asked one of the workers what the yardwork was expected to cost. “He said ‘Oh, it’s going to be probably $90 to $100,” said Kalanuk.  The price variance was attributed to the fact the yard was overgrown.

“I paid him. I sent him an email money transfer and then he said if you want to book again, text my boss.”

Kalanuk says she reached out to the owner of the company for reassurance that, if she chose to hire them again, there would be no surprises. “He said $39 a visit,” recalled Kalanuk of the text conversation. “I said’ Great. Can you come back in two weeks?”

The Calgary woman says she watched from inside her home the next time as her lawn was mowed. The lone worker completed the front yard in approximately 10 minutes before finishing the backyard in roughly 30 minutes. A few hours later, Kalanuk received a bill stating she owed more than $100.

According to Kalanuk, the owner said the job took three hours and required two workers because the yard was overgrown.

Kalanuk says it’s not the price but the approach that has her irked. “If I was expecting it, I would have budgeted for it,” she said. ““Why didn’t he come to the door and say it’s not going to be $39, it’s going to be $101 so I could at least say okay or ‘No, I’ll find somebody else’?”

CTV Calgary’s Consumer Watch reporter Lea Williams-Doherty contacted the landscaping company’s owner on Kalanuk’s behalf. The owner agreed to drop Kalanuk’s upcharge but said his advertisements on Kijiji specifically indicate that overgrown lawns were subject to an additional charge.

Leah Brownridge of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Southern Alberta says disputes between homeowners and contractors often become ‘he said, she said’ cases if there is not a written contract. She adds email and text message quotes are not always enough. “That’s still written word but it might not be as legally binding as a contract would be,” said Brownridge. “You always want to ensure and insist on an official written contract that includes things like start and finish dates, the total cost and also the cancellation and refund policies.”

“That will be your recourse should anything go wrong down the road.”

BBB officials say written contracts can be easily completed by the two sides prior to the start of the project. A handwritten note indicating costs, timelines and rights to cancellations or refunds, signed by both parties, is an acceptable document.

“Even something as simple as having your lawn cut, you should still make sure you cover your bases and have that written contract agreement,” said Brownridge.

With files from CTV’s Lea Williams-Doherty