Hiring a Landscaper? See what BBB knows first

April 24, 2014

Buffalo, NY—April showers bring May flowers, which means savvy consumers are contacting Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York to inquire about landscaping companies. In the last two months, close to 5,000 inquiries were made about landscaping businesses.  

“Many people enlist the services of professionals to maintain their yards and gardens,” said Warren Clark, President of BBB serving Upstate New York. “But we believe no one should have to pay for shoddy work or incomplete projects. Consumers need to do their homework and always check with BBB before hiring any landscaping company.”

BBB offers hundreds of landscape Business Reviews for consumers to consider. While many stand behind BBB Standards for Trust and produce professional work, others might not be as committed to polished end results. Every year complaints are filed against this type of business and they can be a good reminder for consumers to check BBB information before they hire.

One Schenectady customer shared a scary incident from last summer with BBB saying after she questioned her landscaper’s work, he yelled at her and left, telling her that he would “come after her.” She also filed a police report.

A man from West Seneca called BBB when his landscaper disappeared after he had paid them in full. He hired a company to remove a tree and fill the hole at his elderly mother’s house. He said he left message after message for the landscaping company, and his calls were never returned. The complaint filed with BBB went unanswered.

Another consumer from the Rochester area got quite a surprise from her landscaper, telling BBB after she hired a company to do some landscaping at her home she found the mulch used was dyed, and when it rained, the color washed away. When questioned, the company told her to "turn it over." She told the company she would not pay for the mulch and to send her another bill. They never did. She later got a collections letter for more than the contracted amount.

To avoid lawn troubles, BBB offers the following tips when hiring a lawn care or landscaping service:

Know what you want. Do you need fertilizing, weeding, mowing or aerating? Ask prospective companies about the products used (seed, fertilizer, weed killer), request a lawn inspection and estimate. Be wary of any company that quotes a price without first seeing your yard.

Understand the pricing and payment. While price is a major factor in any decision, find out exactly what you are getting. Does the company require you to pay by the mow, or by the week? What happens when it rains? Does mowing include edging? Do they mulch or bag the clippings? Are services performed by employees or by a sub-contractor? 

Keep asking questions until you feel comfortable and when it comes time for payment – use BBBs 3-3-3 rule. Pay a portion at the beginning of your project, more once you reach an agreed middle milestone and the remainder at completion or toward the end of the season. BBB advises to avoid paying with cash and instead use credit cards whenever possible since they offer the best protection should something go wrong.

Do your homework. BBB serving Upstate New York has hundreds of Business Reviews on landscaping companies found at bbb.org. Always ask for references and check the company’s affiliation with national franchises or associations.

Check for licensing and insurance. Depending on the work they perform, some lawn care and landscaping companies are required to be licensed in New York State or your municipality. Make sure the company has up to date licenses as required, when appropriate. Also, find out if the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability.

Read and scrutinize the contract. Some contracts automatically renew, unless you specify otherwise. If you choose to sign a long-term contract, make sure you get information about cancellation rights in writing, in case you find the services to be unsatisfactory. 

Be home when the work is being done. It is a good idea to be on site when the actual landscaping takes place, especially if it’s a bigger job. Oversee the work and keep in mind that if you become concerned that the job is not what you had originally contracted for, you have the right to tell them to stop whatever it is that they are doing.

Shop Around. Get written estimates from at least three different companies. Keep in mind that the cheapest estimate is not necessarily the best option. You may have to invest a little more for higher quality products and services.

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