How not to get ripped off by hiring a tree maintenance company

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Several inches of snow the consistency of mashed potatoes damaged many trees. A DC-based consumer group with tips for hiring a tree service is expecting scammers to come out of the woods.

A branch breaks off from a tree in the DC area. Having the right arborist / tree service can keep trees healthy for decades. (WTOP / Kristi King)

Several inches of snow the consistency of mashed potatoes damaged many trees. A DC-based consumer group with tips for hiring a tree service is expecting scammers to come out of the woods.

“They’re going to come to your door saying things like, ‘Oh, I work right around the corner. And if you give me some money, a few hundred dollars, I can start fixing your problem, ”Kevin Brasler, editor-in-chief at Consumers’ Checkbook, warned.

“You definitely don’t want to use these companies. You don’t want to use door-to-door businesses; it’s not a good way to solicit business, ”he said.

Unlike Maryland, Virginia and DC do not require a license for tree maintenance services. Brasler said anyone hired to work on your property anywhere should be able to show certificates of active liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies.

“It protects you from a big risk. Tree maintenance work is very dangerous, ”he said.

Workers’ compensation covers company employees.

“So if someone is injured on the job, you don’t have to pay the medical bills, unlike the company’s insurance policy,” Brasler explained.

Liability insurance covers the cost of damage if a branch falls on a car or a neighbor’s house. “In addition, it covers damage to your own home; if a branch falls on your home, the company’s liability insurance policy will come into play; you won’t have to make a claim with your home insurance company, ”Brasler said.

Tips before hiring a business:

  • As mentioned above, check that they are insured.
  • Don’t pay anything up front to make sure the job is finished satisfactorily.
  • Document exactly what you want to do and what it will entail.

“Find out what’s included in the price. The main things that increase the cost of tree maintenance work if they remove a tree are,“ Are they going to take away all the wood and debris? ”This is a very good idea to have that included in your contract, “he said. The other expensive thing is whether the company is going to grind the stump below surface level or just cut the trunk low to the ground. .

“Most owners want their stumps to be crushed, so that they no longer exist. And it’s more expensive, ”Brasler noted.

If tree work can wait, Brasler recommends comparison shopping.

“If the tree is damaged, but it probably doesn’t pose a risk to your property or other properties or the people around you, try to wait until things calm down a bit and get several offers,” did he declare. “We find the price differences between local businesses to be huge. Some companies charge an additional $ 1,000 or more for the same tree removal work as nearby competitors. “

Take photos of all damage.

“Document things and check with your insurance company before you start paying for repairs yourself,” Brasler said. “If there is damage to your house or your cars, or to your neighbors’ houses due to a fallen tree or fallen branches, document the damage, take pictures, make sure that you can document what happened. “

Making claims with homeowners or auto insurance companies that might already have businesses ready to respond will help get things started faster.

After documenting the damage, Brasler said it was okay to take steps to prevent further damage, such as putting up tarps or removing trees from the house.

Thanks to a special agreement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook, WTOP.com readers can check out appraisals and price comparisons for tree service companies For a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook / Center for the Study of Services is an independent, non-profit consumer organization founded in 1974. For more than 40 years, it has innovated by providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.

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