EDITORIAL: Don't get ripped off by shady tree cutters
With another season of yard work now underway, homeowners are dealing with overgrowth, fallen leaves, damaged tree limbs and other challenges.
There are many reliable companies that offer tree trimming and brush collection services, but there are also a few that are looking to be paid for work they might start but have no plans to finish, noted the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota in a news release issued last week.
When it comes to finding dependable tree care companies, the bureau urges consumers to "measure three times and cut once."
"If someone knocked on your door and asked if they could work on your furnace, you would be extremely leery and do your research before even considering such an out of the blue offer," said Susan Adams Loyd, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "We feel the same caution should be taken when it comes to the exterior of your home."
When you're looking for a reliable tree trimmer or yard service, keep these six tips from the bureau in mind:
• Be wary of door-to-door solicitations. Each year, countless homeowners have tree trimming companies knock on their door and offer their services at a supposed discount. In too many cases, the work performed is shoddy or only partially completed. At that point, the company requests payment, saying they will come back to finish the work the next morning — and then never return.
• Hire a professional. Research companies for free at bbb.org. Ask for references, as well — and follow up on them. You should also ask if the person knocking on your door needs — and has obtained — a solicitor's permit from the city where you live. If in doubt, confirm that with city officials.
• Ask if they're listed. In Minnesota, all companies and individuals that provide tree care or tree trimming services and/or who remove trees, limbs, branches, brush or shrubs for hire should be listed with Minnesota's Tree Care Registry. This includes all public, private, and governmental entities. To verify this, visit www2.mda.state.mn.us/webapp/lis/default.jsp. It's also a good idea to ensure tree trimmers and brush removal services have any necessary city permits.
• Request an onsite inspection. The inspection should include the entire tree, not just parts that appear to be damaged, in poor condition or in danger of falling. Risk assessment can be done at the same time and this helps consumers determine which trees are categorized as higher-risk.
• Get everything in writing. A contract should clearly state the services you will receive, as well as when the job is expected to be completed, payment terms and conditions, contact information for the company — phone number and address — as well as any refund or cancellation policies.
• Verify insurance coverage. Confirm that the company has insurance that covers worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability.
Taking these straightforward precautions can save homeowners a lot of headaches and hard-earned dollars during their spring clean-up.