I am sorry that you had a negative experience with this particular Home Stager. As an Accredited Staging Professional, I can share my perspective, which I hope will help the situation. When a home owner contacts me for a consultation (where I share what the home owner needs to do to prepare their home), there is a fee, but there is no signed agreement prior to my giving my recommendations. Having said that, the home owner's are obviously told up front what the charges will be, as well as presented with a bill, in addition to my report before I leave.
In this situation, she told you that you would not be charged, and she should abide by her verbal agreement. However, she would be under no obligation to offer you further advice when you called, or return to your home to assess your progress, even if you did pay for the initial consultation, unless that was agreed upon in advance. For my business, I provide unlimited follow up via email and phone for my clients after their consultation, but I know that is not the norm. I do not return to the home to assess progress, but the home owners do send my photos, and I provide feedback from what I see.
Staging is not a regulated industry, which means that there is no official guidelines or licensing requirements that Stagers must abide by. However, most credible Stagers belong to trade associations or Staging associations that require them members to adhere to a code of ethics. I would review her credentials which should be readily available on her website, and contact the organization where she received her certification. (Staged Homes, Certified Staging Professionals, or the Real Estate Staging Association, etc. where any certified Stager can join, but in doing so, they also must adhere to standards) You can send your concerns to them, in addition to pursuing any legal options.
I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to email me with any additional questions.
Accredited Staging Professional serving Northern Virginia
I would find out the licensing requirements, if any, in your state for her business. I would also consult an attorney to have them contact her and let her know that attempting to hinder the sale of your home could have serious consequences. As you said, you have no contract so she would have to establish reason for her claim. I suspect a letter from an attorney would cause her to reconsider her position.