Last winter, strong and windy California storms wreaked havoc on drought-stricken trees. Toppled trees and falling limbs and branches damaged homes, cars, power lines, sidewalks, streets, and even caused physical harm to people. No matter where you live, November is the perfect time to hire a tree maintenance service to ensure that your trees are in good health, trimmed properly, and not a danger to yourself or your property. However, it’s important to be fastidious when choosing a business. In 2016, consumers nationwide filed more than 2,100 complaints against tree service companies with Better Business Bureau (BBB). Common complaints involved businesses not having the correct equipment, not finishing the job, and leaving a mess after work was completed. Be proactive and contact a tree service business now, before winter storms are in full force! Keep the following BBB tips in mind:Check licensing. Make sure that any business you hire has a license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Specifically, look for a D-49 “Tree Service Contractor” license. You can verify the status of a license at cslb.ca.gov. If you’re also looking to hire an arborist, they should hold a C-27 “Landscaping Contractor” license from the CSLB. Keep in mind that different cities may require permits for tree removal and trimming. A trustworthy business will know any local permit requirements or applicable ordinances. Find a trustworthy business. Use bbb.org to find a BBB Accredited tree service company near you. Check out BBB Business Profiles to see a tree service’s BBB Rating, complaint history, reviews from past customers, and any major advertising issues. Make sure to get three estimates – to make it easier, you can even Request a Quote from a BBB Accredited Business straight from their BBB Business Profile! Require a written contract. Be sure the business’ name, address, license number, and phone number are in the contract. It should also include a work schedule, price breakdown of labor and materials, a payment schedule, and any agreements made verbally. Ensure that the service will haul away any trimmings, and make sure that is included in the contract as well.Watch out for scams. According to the BBB Risk Index, home improvement scams are the riskiest scam to consumers. In a home improvement scam, a scammer knocks on your door claiming that they just finished trimming a tree in your neighborhood and offering a great deal. After an initial payment, they either “discover” issues that raise the price, leave a half-finished project, or take your money and never return to do the job. Watch out for contractors that: claim that they just finished work near you and have extra supplies, only accept cash, use high-pressure sales tactics, demand a high upfront payment, or insist on making a deal without a written contract. Learn more at bbb.org/homescam.Payment. Don’t pay large amounts up front. It’s smart to stagger your payments according to work stages and not make a final payment until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Pay by credit card for added protection; using a credit card provides some recourse if the job isn’t completed as stated in the contract.If you have a problem with a business and haven’t been able to resolve it, let your BBB know! You can easily file a complaint online at bbb.org/complain. If you’ve encountered a scam, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker to help warn others.