It can be tempting to hire the first tree care company you find. But doing your homework is imperative to saving money, ensuring quality, safe work, and avoiding tree care scams.
Before even beginning your search, be aware that the credentials of someone calling themselves an arborist can vary widely. An arborist is a professional who cares for trees and other woody plants by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and diseases, consulting on tree related issues, and occasionally planting, transplanting and removing trees. Be wary of tree care scammers - don't just hire someone with a chain saw who knocks on your door!
"With hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars at stake, not to mention the integrity and appearance of your property and your personal safety, make sure that you take your time in deciding which company you should hire," warns Peter Gerstenberger, senior advisor for safety, standards & compliance for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). "Disreputable companies are renowned for ripping gutters off, breaking fences and bird baths, and even dropping trees on houses. Then they typically fold up and leave, never to be seen again," adds Gerstenberger.
Homeowners searching for qualified tree care companies should look for the following:
- Proof of Insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree care company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company - you, the homeowner - could be held responsible as a contractor.
- Good References: Ask for local references, and check on the quality of their work and level of service. Don't be rushed by a bargain and don't pay in advance.
- Solid Reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association.
- Comparisons: Get a second opinion and quote. Always get the estimates in writing.
- Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow ANSI Standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing, and cabling standards.
- Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done.
There are also inherent dangers for one attempting tree care or tree removal - pruning large limbs, felling trees and especially climbing into trees are hazardous activities even for trained professionals. For safe and efficient post-storm work, hire a tree care professional with the experience, expertise and equipment to safely take down or prune damaged trees.
Use these tips to help avoid being the victim of tree care scam artists. To report a tree care scam, contact the Attorney General's office in your state, the Better Business Bureau or the FBI.
Find a professional
A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the safest course of action. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. It has more than 2,000 member companies who recognize stringent safety and performance standards and who are required to carry liability insurance. TCIA also has the nation's only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the Find Qualified Tree Care program. You can use this service by calling 1-800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP code search at www.treecaretips.org.