Hiring a landscape contractor Q&A

Question: I’m evaluating a landscape contractor who has a current
contractor’s license. That’s all I should be concerned about, right?

Brian Dean, ISA Arborist, ASCA

It’s a common misconception that a contractor’s license relieves you, the homeowner of liability should a worker get hurt while on your landscaping job. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. A contractor’s license only stipulates qualifications to perform certain work. It doesn’t mean the contractor has provided his workers all the necessary insurance as required by law.

Without workers comp and liability insurance, homeowners are often shocked to find themselves the target of lawsuits by injured workers.

When considering a landscaper, always be certain:
  • Your contractor is actually the person named on the license.
  • Workers compensation and liability insurance are in place and both are current. Insist on viewing the documentation.
  • Request references and contact them.
  • Get a written estimate with timeline.
  • Insist on Landscape Industry Certified technicians.
“You don’t really purchase a landscape. You buy the services of a landscape contractor to install and construct the project you want.”

When shopping your next landscape project, you’ll likely find a substantial gap between the highest and lowest bids. If this is the case for you, begin by asking questions specific to insurance and liability. If the contractor fails to provide reliable answers, you’ll be smart to move on. There are ample highly qualified and respectable landscape contractors in the Truckee Meadows. This talent pool will allow you to make a choice based upon the integrity of the contractor rather than the lowest price freelancer.

The bottom line: As with any major construction project, solid due diligence always pays for itself. Licensed contractors are regulated by laws designed to protect the public, are bonded, and must successfully complete arduous testing to acquire a license. Unlicensed persons, typically, are not bonded and may not have liability or workers’ compensation insurance. If you hire an unlicensed person, you may be financially responsible if injuries, fire, or other property damage results.

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