Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California offers advice for hiring a landscape contractor
It’s the perfect time of year to hang out in your yard and appreciate the sunshine and fresh air. A beautifully redone landscape can help you enjoy this time even more. Undergoing a landscape remodel leads to amazing results, but it’s also a lot of work, which means that you’ll probably want to hire a professional.
Consumers nationwide filed more than 3,800 complaints with BBB against landscape companies in 2016. Delivery and service issues were the leading causes of complaints. Consumers complained that they were charged more than what their contract specified and that companies didn’t complete projects in a timely manner. Some complaints even involved contractors taking a deposit and disappearing!
- Check BBB. It’s important to do your research when looking for a landscape company. Look for a business that’s both trustworthy and whose style you like. Visit bbb.org to learn more about a company and see what past customers have said. Ask friends and family for recommendations as well. You also want them to specialize in what you’re having done – experience counts.
- Verify licenses. Any contracting job that costs $500 or more (for labor and materials) requires a license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). The business you hire should have an active C-27 landscaping contractor license. You can check the status of a license here. The business should also have liability and workers’ comp insurance, so make sure to ask for proof.
- Get a few in-person inspections and estimates. Contractors that quote a price without seeing your yard cannot be sure what you need. A landscaper will need to measure the area that you want to remodel. Trustworthy companies will offer an estimate only after they see what they are working with.
- Know what you want before they come. Lawn care and landscaping companies provide many services, so it is important to decide what services and products are appropriate for your needs and budget. What do you want the yard, patio or deck to look like when the job is complete?
- Read the contract. A written contract is key! It should include a lot of details, like a breakdown of material and labor costs, a timetable for payment and work, and any agreements made verbally. Make sure you read and understand the contract and keep a copy in case something should go wrong. Is there any sort of cancellation policy? Ask questions and know the details before signing.
- How to pay. Remember the rule of thirds. If you’re getting a new patio, deck or major landscaping, consider paying a third of the contract amount to secure the contract, a third when the work is half done and the final third only after the job is completed and you are satisfied with the work. Don’t feel pressured to pay all in advance or pay in cash.
- Avoid scams. According to the BBB Risk Index, home improvements scams are the riskiest scams to consumers because of their high susceptibility (53%) and median loss ($1,400). Males between the age of 55 and 64 are most susceptible, the primary contact method is in person, and the primary payment method is a check. If someone comes to your door advertising cheap & quick landscape services, be careful. Learn how to spot and avoid home improvement scams at bbb.org/homescam.
If you run in to any scam, including home improvement scams, make sure to report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others. You can find more tips for managing landscape projects at go.bbb.org/outdoorprojects.