Spring is here and homeowners planning to hire landscaper should be careful to weed out shady contractors, advises Better Business Bureau.
“Homeowners should want a landscaper who has a track record,” says Lynda Pasacreta, BBB President and CEO. “If you are shopping around for a landscaper make sure you are dealing with a company that is transparent about its contract and providing you services that you need.”
This past month, BBB received over 1600 lawn maintenance and landscaper inquiries. Last year, the BBB for Mainland BC received 59 complaints related to lawn maintenance and landscaping. Consumers reported having difficulty cancelling service contracts and that there are reports that after yearly contracts end, the contracts are automatically-renewed without the homeowner’s consent.
This year, consumers have reported harassing phone calls from businesses trying to renew lawn maintenance contracts.
BBB offers 10 tips on how to hire a landscaper:
- Decide what landscaping you are looking for. Are you seeking a complete yard remodelling, a maintenance contract, or remedy of a problem?
- Obtain at least three detailed written estimates of the work you want. Some agreements break down costs, but for most residential work it is common to indicate a lump sum, and then detail what's included in the cost. Additionally, if you have specific instructions on items NOT to be done, (for example, your prize rose bush is to be left alone) these instructions should be noted on the estimate or work order.
- Allow the landscaper to make suggestions and recommendations for your specific landscape needs. If you see an example of the way you want the job to look like on completion, show it to the landscaper, and question its feasibility for your yard.
- Ensure that the landscaper checks for specific health hazards and care of all the items in question.
- Always obtain any expressed or implied warranty on the company's workmanship in writing.
- Ask for references, and follow up on them. Many companies carry a portfolio of pictures and letters from customers. Try to ensure that the majority of the work is to be done at the same time, so that the age and condition of the yard are similar.
- Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.mbc.bbb.org and also check to see if they are listed with the BC Landscape & Nursery Association (BCLNA) at www.bclna.com. If the company displays either a BBB or BCLNA logo in its marketing or advertising, verify it with each organization independently.
- Specifically request any refund or repair information. Ask questions about whether the company automatically renews the contract each year.
- It is a good idea to be on site when the actual landscaping takes place. Oversee the job, 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.
- If you a contractor provides services without your authorization and charges you for the work, you can contact Consumer Protection BC to file a complaint: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca