Dispute over logging at Mooresville property shows importance of written contracts

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MOORESVILLE, Ind. -- A couple in their 80's called CBS4 Problem Solvers for help, saying they couldn't get a contractor to clean up their property after they agreed to a logging deal.

As Sara Rutledge walks the front few acres of her property, she doesn't like what she sees.

"It looks like a tornado (came) through," Rutledge said.

Rutledge and her husband hired Stars and Stripes Tree Service out of Mooresville to cut down some trees in 2018 and they ended up striking a much bigger deal with owner Justin Ault.

"He wanted to know if we'd be interested in him logging back in the woods," Rutledge said.

They agreed to split the profits and for a while, Rutledge said it was working, but then she started to get worried as the project progressed. She ended up telling Ault to stop logging halfway through the agreed acreage.

"I said, 'You think that I’m going to let you tear up the rest of our woods like it’s tore up right now? You need to get it cleaned up,'" Rutledge said.

That was about a year ago. Rutledge called CBS4 Problem Solvers because she still wanted the clean up to happen and she said Ault wasn't following through on promises to take care of it.

"He has done work for us before and he’s cleaned it up, so I felt like I could trust him, I could take him for his word," Rutledge said.

Ault agreed to talk to CBS4 Problem Solvers about the Rutledges' concerns. He said that he did intend to clean up, but he was struggling to do that after the project didn't move forward as planned.

"(The plan) was cut the timber in and then bring the brush to the trail where we could work with it, and then clean our way out. So when she said, 'Hey, no more cutting, you need to clean up now,' it (turned) the project all backwards," Ault said.

Rutledge kept all her paperwork and checks from the proceeds, but she and Ault never executed a written contract. Without that contract, it's not clear who is responsible for the cleanup since the project was not completed.

"You can’t just cut off the project, half the project," Ault said.

The impasse has left Rutledge relying on neighbors to help clear the logs that are leftover. Ault told CBS4 Problem Solvers he does plan to show up and finish the clean up as soon as possible.

"We stand by our word, our handshake, we’re going to do a good job," Ault said.

If you strike a deal with a business, the Better Business Bureau suggests that you get all verbal agreements in writing and make sure you understand a contract before you sign it. You can find more information at the link here.

For help with a problem, contact the CBS4 Problem Solvers at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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