Restoration efforts following Hurricane Irma have begun.
While the burden of repairing your home can be exhausting, many turn to tree services to lend a hand in repairing things outdoors.
Scammers are using this vulnerable time to prey on homeowners.
First Coast News spoke with the Better Business Bureau on what you can do to protect yourself.
Here are some guidelines to follow when hiring a tree service:
1. Track Record. Before hiring a company, the BBB advises that customers read reviews from previous customers on the company and review how they respond to complaints. They also suggest checking to see if the company is a member of professional organizations such as The International Society of Arboriculture, American Society of Consulting Arborist, Tree Care Industry Association or the Florida Arborists Association.
2. Look for the BBB Accredited Business Seal. BBB Accredited Tree Service Companies meet BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity.
3. Cost Comparisons. The BBB says, don't be a one stop shop. They suggest getting at least three quotes in writing, compare the quotes based on the same specification and make sure they have proper equipment to perform the job quoted. Don’t assume that tree stump removal is included if it’s not specified. Remember, quality of work may be more important than price.
4. References. Ask for references from the company’s last three jobs and contact them for testimonial.
5. Permits. Obtain applicable permits for the work to be done.
6. Licensing. No formal license is required for tree trimming in Florida. Do your homework. Licensing may be required at the state, county and/or city levels to perform additional types of service needed in this industry. Example: If company applies any pesticides verify they have proper state pesticide applicator’s license.
7. Local Business Tax Receipt / Ordinances. Most communities have safe tree ordinances and require a business to obtain a local business tax receipt. Check with your local tax collector’s office and know your local ordinances before you have any trees removed. A reputable tree company will know the local ordinances before starting any project.
8. Insurance. Verify the company has personal and property damage liability insurance and workers compensation insurance by getting certificates of insurance with you listed as the certificate holder. You can also verify proof of Workers Comp Insurance with the Florida Department of Financial Services. Make sure that all workers on the job site are covered and are using hardhats along with other personal protective equipment.
9. Written Contract. Get everything in writing. Do not permit work to start without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, to include protection of your property, clean up and removal of debris. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.
10. Deposits and Payment. Whatever you do, don't pay in full up front. The BBB suggest staggering your payments according to work progress and do not make a final payment until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Using a check or credit cared to may payments also offers more security should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
11. Criminal History. Check out anyone you allow onto your property to see if they have a criminal history. Don't be afraid to ask the company: Do they employees undergo a background check? Are they trained and certified? Will they be wearing name tags and uniforms on the job? Are the company vehicles clearly marked?
Source: Better Business Bureau
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