Unfortunately for those of us running a legitimate and experienced tree service company, our industry is filled with unreliable fly-by-night companies that perform inferior work. Even worse, there are outright con artists who will take your money and never complete the work at all.
According to the Better Business Bureau, “the tree service industry was the sixth most complained about industry at the BBB last year.”
What can you do to protect yourself and ensure you choose a trustworthy and professional company to perform your tree services? What should you know in order to avoid tree service scams?
Based on our years of experience, these 6 tips will help point you in the right direction.
- Insurance – Make sure that any tree service you consider carries appropriate liability insurance and workers comp insurance. Upon request, certificates of insurance should be obtainable through the tree service company, or directly from the insurance agency. If a company has an accident without being properly insured, you as the homeowner are liable for the damages, including repairs to your property and any injuries that resulted from the accident.
- Reputation – The internet makes it quick and easy to research tree service companies and make sure their customers are having positive experiences. Check the company’s Yelp! reviews and their Facebook page for reviews and photos. How long has the company been in business? Are there any complaints outstanding with the BBB? How long has the company been in business? If you need the extra assurance, ask the company for references.
- Too Cheap? – You know the old adage: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. We all hunt for bargains, but red flags should come up if a tree service company is quoting a price that seems too low. This may mean they a) do not have proper insurance, b) they have little to no experience, or c) they intend to perform inferior work or complete only part of the project.
- Too Pricey? – Tree services can be very expensive, so you might experience sticker-shock if you are unfamiliar with these costs. However, you as a consumer can do a little research on these costs and obtain multiple estimates to ensure you’re getting a fair price for the work to be performed.
- Apples to Apples - When reviewing multiple estimates, be sure you consider what is actually being offered by each company. One tree service may be offering extra services or some additional benefits you should take into account. If there are large price discrepancies between companies, be sure to ask why. One company may plan to fell the tree while another tree service will remove the tree in small sections. Felling a tree is quicker and easier, but may cause more damage to your property. Removing a tree in small sections using a pulley system is much safer, but it requires more time and effort, thereby increasing the costs.
- Pay When Satisfied – Even when you’ve selected a tree service company you feel comfortable with, remember that you should not pay for a tree pruning or removal project until you are satisfied with the work performed. It’s unfortunately all too common for homeowners to pay for tree services in advance only to never see the company again. Unlike the construction industry, a tree service company should never need to be paid in advance for work to be completed. One common trick used by dishonest companies is to start a project, collect full or partial payment to “cover the costs of the job,” only never to be seen again. Buyer Beware: Don’t pay a cent until the tree service project is completed and you are satisfied with the service.
By asking the right questions, doing a bit of research and using common sense, you’ll be doing your part in choosing the right tree service company.