BE AWARE OF SCAMS
- Door to Door Solicitations
- High Pressure or “Today Only” Sales
- Up Front “Cash” Discounts
- Large Down Payments
- Very Low Bids
- No Contract or Agreement
- No Permanent Place of Business
- If it sounds too good to be true… it most likely is.
PLAN YOUR LANDSCAPING PROJECT
Get a good sense of what you want done in as much detail as possible. While it is tempting to hire a non- licensed landscaper, hiring a licensed landscape contractor may be the best option for peace of mind.
Licensed Landscape Contractors are held to a higher standard than non-licensed landscapers. Licensed landscape contractors are required to have a $10,000 Surety Bond or certified letter of credit. The surety bond can provide you with financial help toward losses resulting from the contractor’s failure to meet the obligation. Licensed landscape contractors are required to take seven hours of continuing education (including two business related hours) a year to help keep them at the top of the field.
The NC Landscape Contractors’ Licensing Board is responsible for administering Chapter 89D of the General Statutes of North Carolina for licensed landscape contractors; for safeguarding life, health, and property and maintaining a high professional standard for the landscape industry.
Get several estimates and when comparing estimates, don’t just compare the bottom line cost. Look at the cost, materials and specifications for each estimate. Be sure the estimate includes the total price, the materials to be used, a time table for payments and the expected timeline for completion of the work.
VERIFY THE CONTRACTOR’S LICENSE
Verify that the individual or company you may be working with is licensed. There are many types of licenses… drivers license, business license, privilege licenses, etc. Make sure the landscaper is a Licensed Landscape Contractor and the license is current. You can easily check the Board’s website for current licensed landscape contractors, both by individual or business (Corporate)
Ask your contractor for two to three written references. Contact the references and ask if they were satisfied with the contractor’s work and if the contractor kept to the schedule and contract terms.
REQUIRE A WRITTEN CONTRACT
Prior to commencing work, services performed by a licensed landscape contractor that exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) in value shall be described in a written agreement. The contract should be a detailed description of the work to be done, the material to be used, and installed. Be sure there is a schedule of payments and a timeline for when the work will be completed. Be sure you understand the contract before you sign it. Any changes that occur should be noted in writing.
DON’T MAKE A LARGE DOWN PAYMENT
A down payment might be requested to “lock in” your quote, project date, or for the purchase of materials but such down payments should be only a percentage of the complete project cost. The down payment you pay in order for work to begin should be minimal. If the requested down payment seems excessive, you may want to consider another option. If a down payment is requested, ask for a detailed receipt specifying exactly what the down payment is for. Beware of a landscaper who is asking for a large payment so that they can purchase the materials to begin your project.
MAKE PAYMENTS AS WORK IS COMPLETE
Set up a payment schedule that follows the work as is being completed. Never pay for something that has not been completed. Do not pay for anything in cash.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE PROGRESS OF THE JOB
Check in regularly on the progress of the work. Any and all permits should be displayed by the contractor while the work is being done. Take photos of the job in progress.
DON’T MAKE THE FINAL PAYMENT UNTIL THE JOB IS COMPLETE
Before making the final payment, make sure that you are satisfied with the completed work. Verify that any and all liens have been released.
Finally, be prepared for unforeseen cost overruns, so you may want to include that in your personal project budget to minimize any surprises that could affect the completion of your project.
KEEP ALL PAPERWORK RELATED TO YOUR JOB
Be sure to keep a record of all documents on your project. This includes the contract, any written changes, all bills and invoices, receipts of payments, and all correspondence with your contractor. You should also include photos of the job in progress.