Regarding tree care, some jobs are may require hiring a professional arborist. Not only can they safely handle tree trimming and removal, they can help you revive a damaged tree, set up a newly planted tree for success, and advise on insect and disease control.
BBB provides the following tips on finding the right arborist for your job:
Tips for hiring an arborist or tree service company
- Opt for a Certified Arborist when possible. Titles like “arborist” or “tree surgeon” don’t require special certificates or training. A Certified Arborist, on the other hand, is someone who has completed training with The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). ISA Certified Arborists receive continuing education and are well-versed in tree trimming, care, and removal. You can use the ISA’s website to find a certified arborist in your area or verify ISA credentials.
- Ask if they will perform the work according to industry standards. If the tree service mentions “tree topping,” “lion’s-tailing,” or using climbing spikes to prune a tree, the company does not follow industry standards. What’s more, those practices can injure or kill your tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save you money. However, a tree pruned by one of these methods may require more expensive restoration work in the future to save it.
- Ask if clean-up is included: If you remove limbs or cut down a tree, you may need help dealing with the wood and/ or stump left behind. Be sure to ask if this is included and how much it costs.
- Find out about licensing and permits. Check with your city and county and your homeowners’ association to find out about any relevant permit or licensing requirements. Some communities have safe tree ordinances requiring businesses to obtain a local tax receipt. Your local tax collector’s office will have the most up-to-date information on local requirements. Most tree removal companies will pull permits for you, but you must confirm this with the company. Don’t skip this step. Fines for unpermitted work are expensive.
- Get proof of insurance. Your homeowner’s insurance isn’t enough to protect you if someone gets injured doing tree work on your property. Make sure the company has personal and property damage liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. This will protect you and the company if something goes awry during the project. You can further inquire if workers on the job site are covered (subcontractors may need to hold their insurance, for example) and must use personal protective equipment. A truly professional company will consider the safety of its workers a top priority.
- Check out a company’s track record. Before you hire someone, review their company’s BBB Business Profile at BBB.org. Also, ask for references from the company’s last three jobs and contact them for testimonials.
- Get multiple estimates. Aim to get at least three quotes in writing and compare them based on the prices and what is included in the service.
- Always sign a written contract. Do not permit work to start without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, the means that will be used to protect your property, and what cleanup and debris removal will be done. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.
- Be safe when making payments and deposits. Never make a large payment or deposit upfront. Scammers may try to convince you to make a deposit and then never return to finish (or even start) the job. Instead, stagger your payments according to work stages. Pay by check or with a credit card for added protection. Credit card payments provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
- Stay alert to red flags. If a tree service company offers a discount, you might be dealing with a scammer if you act right now or use other high-pressure sales techniques, you might be dealing with a scammer. Other red flags to look out for include companies with no printed materials, bid forms, door-to-door solicitations, vague claims about credentials, unusually low prices, and cash-only deals.
For More Information
To learn more about scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. For more about avoiding scams, check out BBB.org/AvoidScams. If you’ve been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Stay up on the latest scams by subscribing to BBB Scam Alerts emails.
Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org.
About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. BBB Serving Central East Texas was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.