Don't Get Buned...By Bad Contractors
Recently, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Affairs announced that there has been an upswing in the number of people being ripped off by unscrupulous home improvement contractors. In several incidents, people were ripped off for thousands of dollars with little or no work around the homes to show for it. One elderly resident was even taken for $240,000. Here is a link to the article in The Gazette detailing the issue:
How can you be sure that you are dealing with honorable and law abiding contractors? Here is a list of things to check on before you agree to have anyone work done on your property.
Insurance - Anyone working on your property should have enough General Liability insurance to cover any damage they may do to your property. The State of Maryland requires that all home improvement licensees carry a minimum of $50,000 in liability insurance. Additionally, to have a pesticide applicators license the state requires $15,000 per occurrence in liability insurance with a $30,000 annual aggregate provision. Of equal importance is that the contractor carry adequate worker's compensation insurance otherwise anyone that gets hurt working on your property can hold you responsible. Any legitimate contractor should be able to furnish you with a certificate of insurance naming you as a co-insured. (FYI: Allentuck Landscaping Co. carries $1,000,000 per occurrence in liability insurance and $500,000 per occurrence in workers compensation insurance. Protecting our clients is very important to us).
Licensing - Licensure is one way that the local governments help assure that only legitimate businesses are working in our area. There are several different licenses that are required of any business doing home improvements and landscaping. Montgomery County requires every entity doing business in the county to have a Business License. The State of Maryland requires all contractors, including landscapers, to hold a Home Improvement License. Maryland also requires anyone applying pesticides to hold a Pesticide Applicators License and anyone applying fertilizer to have Nutrient Management Certification. All three of these licenses require several years of experience in the field and the passing of exams. Your contractor should be able to show you these licenses.
References - All good contractors are proud of the relationships they have with past customers and of the work they have done. If you are unsure about them, ask for three references and their contact information.
Accurately Written Estimate - If it is not written, it probably will not get done. Estimates should be accurate as to what work will be completed and for what price. Do not accept open ended contracts with no finite dollar amount. Things change on many job sites but only allow them to happen with change orders, again stating what work will be changing and for how much money. Specifics matter and save everyone a lot of headaches in the end.
Not every job goes exactly as planned but if you are working with a good contractor and have an open line of communications, most problems can be worked out to everyone's benefit. If you feel that you have been taken advantage of by an illegitimate contractor, there are numerous authorities available to help including Montgomery County Police Department, Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office, Montgomery's Office of Consumer Protection, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Let's hope that by taking the above steps, this will never be necessary for you.
To find out more how Allentuck Landscaping Co. can create beautiful landscapes for you, please call us at 301-515-1900 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.