A reader: My elderly father lives alone and he has finally agreed that it would be okay for me to hire someone to take care of his yard. He is very particular, especially about the rose bushes that my mother planted. I want to be very sure that he will be happy having someone else care for his yard at this time in his life. He would be wanting someone to spruce up his yard when the seasons change with new plantings, trimming trees as well as regular grass cuttings. Can you tell me what to watch out for?
Action Line: What a thoughtful person you are to look after your father. All children should be so good to their parents.
Here’s a good place to start. Always get comparative bids from at least three companies. It’s always a good idea to ask for recommendations from friends and family that you truly trust.
You can also go to bbb.org to check them out. Here you can find out how long they have been in business and whether they have a contractor’s license (not all types of landscaping require a license). You can also check to see if there are any complaints, customer reviews and just how we rate them.
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Invite each of these companies to meet at your father’s home so that they can meet you and your dad. Make sure your dad likes them and he is able to tell them what he wants done. This might be something you and your dad discuss before the meetings. Make a list so that nothing is overlooked. Ask for written estimates and compare them. Don’t feel pressured to hire the lowest bid or to hire on the spot. The cheapest price isn’t always the best price.
If you are looking for lawn maintenance only, chances are they will not need a contractor’s license. According to the Contractor’s State License Board, if a landscape contractor constructs, maintains, repairs, installs, or subcontracts the development of landscape systems and facilities for public and private gardens and other areas which are designed to aesthetically, architecturally, horticulturally, or functionally improve the grounds within or surrounding a structure or a tract or plot of land, they need a license. As part of that, if a landscape contractor prepares and grades plots and areas of land for the installation of any architectural, horticultural and decorative treatment or arrangement, a license is required. If the work you want done falls into this description, make sure they have a license and check it.
Once you decide on a landscaper, make sure you get everything in writing. The contract should include a start and projected end date, a list of materials being used, cost and fee breakdown, and anything else that has been verbally agreed upon should be written in the contract. Read the contract carefully and do not sign it unless you are 100 percent okay with what is written in the contract.
For more home improvement tips, check out the Better Business Bureau’s website.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.