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Landcare landscaping company planning remodeling on W.Lakeview Place

Lansing State Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK - Lansing, Mich.

Lansing State Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK - Lansing, Mich.

Lansing State Journal | USA TODAY NETWORK - Lansing, Mich.

David Cook and Katie Hoppler said they took the shortcut to earn extra money and turned into a side-by-side construction business, but in January their existing client dropped them and they didn't get the other work they hoped to earn.

And so they've gone to court — hoping they can resolve their landlord-tenant issue without having to pay rent for more than two years.

Cook and Hoppler, both 20 and in Lansing to attend college, had considered a move to Utah, where Hoppler's family lives, but they said they needed more money.

They decided to turn their home, a side-by-side brick two-story structure, into a trucking business.

David Cook is a Michigan State University junior, and Katie Hoppler is a Lansing Community College freshman.

(Cook's address in the divorce petition)

Cook has worked for a landscaping company since he was 15, Hoppler since last year.

They had moved in together at Hoppler's parents' residence a few years ago.

They knew the landlord, who lives nearby.

They cleaned and did their best to upgrade the inside, calling it an "old house with awesome potential," Cook said.

Hoppler has an eye for interior design. She painted one room.

"The first week in the truck, we were calling around to make sure there were no laws against us," Hoppler said. "We didn't want to break any laws. I'm pretty sure we're doing things the right way."

But, "that's where we are," she said.

She didn't want to go on the record about their landlord.

Hoppler said her landlord contacted them in January and said he didn't have any work for them and no longer wished to lease the space.

"We're like, 'What? How? What happened?'" Hoppler said.

It turns out they hadn't paid their December rent, Cook said.

"They didn't have the money," Cook said.

They thought they had an agreement to pay a rent of $50 a week, or $200 a month, and they went to court in February, he said.

The total owed is $1,600 — $300 more than Hoppler's mother — for a total of nearly two years.

Cook and Hoppler have been working since April to save up the money, finding odd jobs and trying to find work, Cook said.

"I've always been very responsible," Cook said. "I grew up being very responsible. I don't ever think I've done anything wrong."

Hoppler went into a store for groceries and found out they don't have a job there. She had to do some quick math on the way home and realized she had $54 after paying for gas. She took a nap.

"I was laying in bed thinking about all these places I could go," Hoppler said. "Just trying to figure out how to get all of this money."

She found a $70 job she can do at a gas station on Sundays, but she needs to save money for gas and go to Michigan State in the fall.

But she won't have a job or a place to live for a while.

Hoppler said she would do any job that pays cash — make sandwiches, sell flowers or deliver packages.

"I'm not going to be picky," she said. "Anything that helps me get this payment figured out."

Hoppler said her mother wants her to stay with her.

But they have to figure out a way to pay rent.

"It's just going to take me a couple months," Hoppler said. "It's just going to be a situation where we're going to be forced to take what we have to."

Cook had worked with a landscaping company for his sophomore year at MSU and stayed with them, but when they had a bad experience, Cook left.

He had gotten his hours from the landscaping company last semester, but since he stopped working there, he's had to find other work.

And with the truck, Cook said he's making about $50 an hour, or $1,600 a month.

Hoppler, he said, makes a little bit less than that — but "we haven't really had time to actually sit down and figure out how much it's going to be."

Cook said they planned to use the money to rent a place near his parents' house, "because they're supportive."

He wants them to keep paying their rent, and to not pay any back rent, he said.

He just wants to be done.

"The saddest part about this whole situation," Cook said, "is that there's no way that I wanted to do this. I didn't want to do this. I just wanted to have a home.

"But now I'm going to be living in my parents' basement."

But when you ask Cook how much the business is worth to him, he doesn't hesitate.

"It's worth everything," he said. "It's worth everything."

And he's confident that they can find the money to finish this project.

A judge will determine in March whether or not they can close out their bank accounts and stop paying rent.

Contributing: Associated Press

David Cook and Katie Hoppler: A side-by-side landscaping business

With a side-by-side two-story brick house on W. Lakeview, Cook and Hoppler realized there were many things that could be improved. They came up with a plan to renovate the


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