Consumer Guide: Fall Exterior Cleaning

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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 force you to sign a more expensive long-term contract — or the company might do a poor job that doesn’t meet your expectations.

Look for an established company with a good reputation: 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 trimmers or traveling chimney sweeps who knock on their door, offer a low price and ask for money in 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 looks at your yard or house and understands what you want done, estimates might 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: Trimming trees and maintaining lawns 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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