An NBC4 inquiry into why Southern California homeowners had their lawn replacement plan "voided" by Turf Terminators is leading to questions about why the company changed its name.
Jay Aldrich and Bob Dugan, of North Hills, said they wanted to take advantage of the LADWP rebate program to tear out their lawn and put in a drought-tolerant one. They called Turf Terminators, an LA-based company that promises to do the basic work at no cost to homeowners, in exchange for their city-funded rebate.
The couple accused the company of making "empty promises," while Turf Terminators said it was working to rectify the situation.
But now, the California Contractors’ State Licensing Board (CSLB) says Turf Terminators officially started doing business as "Build Savings" on July 20. When asked about the name change, the Chief Operating Officer for Turf Terminators, Julian Fox, doesn’t mention the new name, only to say the company is still "Turf Terminators," just using a "doing business as."
Fox sent this email to NBC4: "Turf Terminators did not change its name. It simply added a DBA, or 'doing business as,' which is registered with the CSLB. As I'm sure you are aware, using a DBA is a very common business practice which is why the CSLB lists our DBA on their website. Our DBA is filed with both the California Secretary of State and with the CSLB. Both of these filings are visible online at the respective state agency websites."
When NBC4 asked the CSLB about the change, a spokesman said the company cannot use the Turf Terminator name any longer without saying "DBA Build Savings." Rick Lopes with CSLB said the state investigates claims against contractors all the time and takes every one of them seriously.
"If there is evidence of them writing new contracts under the Turf Terminators name," Lopes said, "we’d be interested in learning that."
Fox says the company "is not and has not" been seeking new customers.
"We’ve eliminated tabs on the website that might make new customers thing that they are 'signing up,'" he wrote, adding, "it is important to us that our existing customers have a way to get in touch with us do that we can address issues if they arise.”
However, NBC4 noticed the Turf Terminators website was still active, with links to sign up as of Monday morning. By the afternoon though, the site had been changed to show only contact information for existing customers to contact the company. It’s a move the CSLB says is a smart one but can also be a confusing one.
"They need to be very careful since both names are part of their company," Lopes said. "a consumer needs to know what company they’re contracting with and that the company is properly licensed."
Up until Monday, both the Turf Terminators website and the Build Savings website showed the same license number.
"It’s like a company that just files bankruptcy and the next week they’re on another street doing another thing," said Turf Terminators customer Eddy Salman of La Mirada,. "Same routine, same BS, different day."
Salman says a representative from the company came to his property in February and spent three hours measuring for a project he was ready to add thousands of dollars of his own money into to expand. Now, he calls his dead lawn the "Sahara" and says his constant emails and phone calls went unanswered.
"They tell you a good lie and they never come through," Salman said. "I had to include Channel 4 News in (an email) for them to even respond to my email when they weren’t responding at all!"
Salman says he reached out to the company on Friday and was told they would get back to him. By Monday afternoon he said he still hadn’t heard anything.
Fox says the company has had to cut back on its staff but that they will rectify all claims that have approached NBC4. He suggests anyone with an outstanding case to contact Turf Terminators by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are willing to fix customer issues," he wrote, "but can only do so if we are made aware of them."
Fox added,: To be clear, Turf Terminators is still here and remains committed to working through its backlog of existing customers."
There has been no comment from the company about its reasons behind the name change to Build Savings.
In a statement from the CSLB, they want anyone who feels they were victimized by Turf Terminators to file an official complaint.
"The complaint shouldn’t simply be based on confusion," Lopes said. "Unless that confusion led them to sign something they didn’t understand or led them to pay money for something they didn’t completely understand."
The CSLB says all current and future contracts with the company, as of July 20, should say "Build Savings" with the license number 992766 or it should say "Turf Terminators DBA Build Savings" with the same license number. Lopes says the company should not only include the name "Turf Terminators."
"Consumers need to know what company they’re dealing with," he said. "Consumer complaints help us figure out how a company is operating and if crimes are being broken."
The CSLB says there are no disclosures on file against Turf Terminators or Build Savings.