Be Careful When Hiring for Fall Cleaning

When leaves begin to fall and garden plants go to seed, homeowners may consider hiring a lawn or landscaping company to clean up yards before winter.

The Better Business Bureau advises owners to check out companies carefully before hiring them and ask for a contract that outlines what will be done and when.

Some garden maintenance companies or chimney sweeps send mailers with offers that seem almost too good to be true. Other service providers may knock on doors and offer to clean up debris on site. Either way, it’s a good idea to do your research before hiring someone. The low-cost deal might require you to sign a long-term, more expensive contract — or the company might do a poor job that doesn’t meet your expectations.

BBB Business Profiles are available on dozens of lawn care, tree trimming, or other outside service companies. Reviews provide an A+ to F rating, how long the business has been in business, its physical address, complaints and how they were resolved, and reviews on whether customers are happy with the work.

Here are some other tips for hiring fall cleanup companies:

• Look for an established company with a good reputation: Check BBB company profiles and ask several companies for references. It’s a good idea to get several offers for the same job before making a choice.

• Be careful with notaries who go door to door: owners often complain to BBB about tree cutters or itinerant chimney sweeps who knock on their door, offer a low price and demand money from the advance. Too often, work is done of poor quality, if at all, and consumers cannot contact the soliciting company for a refund.

• Get an estimate based on an on-site inspection: Unless a contractor examines your yard or home and understands what you want done, estimates may not be reliable. Estimates should include all labor, cleanup, and disposal costs, and a contract should outline exactly what will be done and when the company expects the work to be completed. If you need a service more than once, the cost and frequency should be stated in the contract.

• Check a company’s insurance coverage: Tree trimming and lawn care can be dangerous. A company that provides these services must be willing to demonstrate that it has workers’ compensation, property damage, and liability insurance.

Consumers should avoid companies that push them to do business quickly without checking the company’s reputation and credentials.

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