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Hassle-Free Curb Appeal: Tips for Hiring a Landscaper

You’re probably interested in hiring a landscaper to save yourself the headache (and back ache!) of measuring, hauling, pruning, and trimming.  If your relationship with your landscaper doesn’t go as planned, legal issues might leave you wishing you would have done all the heavy labor yourself.  Here are some tips to get that yard of your dreams, and keep the legal issues from getting in the way:

Hire Credible Professionals

A shoddy landscaping job is not only embarrassing, it could even bring down the value of your home and cost you a bundle of money and energy to fix. Not to mention the fact that your landscaper will spend a great deal of time in your yard: he may see when you come and go, and how secure your home is. It’s not uncommon for burglaries and theft to be committed by criminals posing as service workers, so it is important to only hire landscapers that can be proven trustworthy.

Start by asking friends, family members, co-workers, and other acquaintances who have beautifully landscaped yards to provide referrals. Compiling a list of companies with a proven history of quality work gives you an ideal starting point, but make sure the one you end up hiring has business integrity as well. Consider the following as you narrow your search:

  • Can the landscaper provide references? Most consumers prefer at least two, in addition to the source of the referral.
  • Does the landscaper have documented credentials? Only some states require landscapers to complete licensing examinations (which are often required of other home care professionals, such as plumbers and electricians.) The remaining states have more lenient policies, such as requiring a license without an examination, requiring a license only if the company exceeds a certain amount of revenue, and not requiring a license at all. Contact your state department of commerce to find out what your local guidelines are. Some companies hire employees with landscaping degrees from trade schools or colleges. You may also consider landscapers who are certified by your state’s branch of the Association of Landscape Professionals, or the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
  • How are employees screened? While you may develop an excellent rapport with the owner of the company, he may not be the one who personally completes your project. If you will not be home to supervise, or you have reservations about who will be spending time just outside your door, ask prospective landscapers exactly who will be sent over. If you prefer employees who have passed drug tests and/or background checks, make this request known, and ask for documentation that the screening was preformed.
  • Visit the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been logged against prospective landscapers.

Require Proof of Insurance

Most prospective customers know their landscaping project will set them back a significant chunk of money, but most don’t anticipate losing their homes or life savings.

If your landscaper is not properly insured, employees of the company may be able to sue you if there are accidents that result in damage or injury. Ask to see proof of both worker’s compensation insurance and generally liability insurance. Look for coverage amounts of at least $500,000 to $1 million per policy.

Agree on a Plan Before Work Begins

If your vision of your new yard isn’t properly interpreted by your landscaper, you could end up stuck paying for a disappointing project.

The landscaper should provide you with a detailed description of services before any digging begins. The plan should include sketches and written descriptions with measurements.  Lists of materials and permits should be broken down, along with their associated costs. If necessary, ask for clarification on which costs are pre-determined and which are estimates. Use our Landscaping Contract to put your agreement in writing. Make sure this plan is developed to your satisfaction, and both parties agree about costs, before giving the green light to start the project.

Consider Long Term Care

Your relationship with your landscaper probably won’t end immediately after he spruces up your yard. If you are concerned about how plants and workmanship will hold up once the project is complete, discuss warranties with your landscaper. It is common for companies to warranty projects, so they share some or all of the liability in the event that plants die prematurely or statues topple over when a storm comes through. Make sure you and the landscaper are clear on what constitutes repair or replacement under your warranty.

Some landscaping companies also offer maintenance services, but many will refer you to a different company. Keep in mind that, unless it is part of your contract, you are not bound to any one maintenance provider. Shop around for lower bids and/or a more impressive track record if you prefer.

With some diligence on your end, you should end up with a final project that showcases the best aspects of your home.

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