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What To Look For In A Contracter

There are many options available when looking to hire landscaping maintenance services - big chains, local companies, private individuals, and your neighbor’s teenager. The choices can be confusing, but it is important to do your research and take time when choosing a company. One bad pick can result in poor services rendered, money lost, and even legal issues. This month’s blog will help guide you through the process of choosing who will get your property in tip-top shape!

Hiring a Licensed vs. Non-Licensed Contractor

The biggest difference between licensed and non-licensed contractors is the risk you personally take when hiring one or the other. Landscapers hired to do work at your home or business should at minimum have a business license issued by the city or county in addition to general liability, and worker’s compensation for their employees. They should be able provide you with a copy of their license and proof of insurance (i.e. workers compensation and general liability) can be sent directly from their insurance company to you.

Other certifications includes appropriate licensing with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division, such as:

1. MS-06 (related to sprinkler system installation and maintenance): Private citizens can check with the New Mexico Construction Industries Division website to find out if contractors are licensed to do sprinkler work. A bond is also required if they hold a license with Construction Industries Division.

2. License from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture if they buy and resell plant material. Prospective clients can check with New Mexico Department of Agriculture to see if they are licensed to purchase and sell plant material

Licensing offers proof that the landscape contractor has met certain industry training standards and is allowed perform the work. Hiring an unlicensed landscape contractor could cost you your initial investment plus additional funds to fix the project in the future. If the work does not meet local codes, or the landscape contractor does not pull the necessary permits (which an unlicensed contractor cannot do), you will be responsible for making the repairs to meet code.

It might be appealing when comparing the estimate of an unlicensed, uninsured, and non-bonded landscape contractor to one who has those credentials. Licensed, bonded, and insured contractors usually charge more than those who have not earned the credentials or paid for the insurance protection. We like to look at it this way: if an unlicensed contractor does not follow the law (or good business practices) in being licensed, insured or bonded, what else is he or she cutting corners on? If something goes wrong, it is you who will be paying the price.

Money, Money, Money

The truth is that it IS cheaper to hire a non-licensed/uninsured landscape contractor. A bid from an unlicensed/uninsured landscape contractor may be much lower than those licensed and insured and are promising to do the same work. It may sound appealing to save money if you can still get great workmanship, but this is where many homeowners fall into the money pit.

Hiring the cheapest landscape contractor may cost you more in the long run. In most circumstances, unlicensed/uninsured offer lower quotes because they do not pay a licensing fee, or have a bond to protect their work, and in many cases, don’t purchase general liability or worker’s compensation insurance. Without these expenses, the unlicensed /uninsured can offer a lower rate. Although a licensed landscape contractor may not do better work than an unlicensed one, the risk of hiring an unlicensed contractor is too great for homeowners.

Here are two reasons why it is important to hire a licensed contractor:

1. Basic Protection

Obtaining a license in a specific field demonstrates that the person has a minimal level of competence in that field, for everything ranging from safely installing irrigation systems to current building codes. Having a license does not necessarily indicate they are the best at what they do, but that they do have a basic understanding. Legally, a licensed contractor is required to participate in arbitration hearings if any disputes arise.

New Mexico Construction Industries Division keeps and publishes complaints against contractors. This is important because it allows potential clients to research a contractor and read about other consumer experiences. In addition, if a contractor receives enough complaints, the contractor could possibly lose their license.

2. Injury/Liability Protection

What if the landscaper you hired has an employee on the job at your home who was injured on your property but the landscaper did not carry worker’s compensation insurance? Since that employee was injured on your property, he could file a claim on your homeowner’s insurance policy to help cover the cost to pay that worker’s claim.

After you meet your deductible, the claim could result in an increase of your insurance rates. Lengthy lawsuits, emotional strife, and an incomplete landscaping job would certainly outweigh hiring an unlicensed contractor.

Uh oh. What Happens Next?

What is my recourse if I hire a non-licensed contractor and they screw up?

Prevention is key: do your research first so it does not happen! If it does happen, you can also notify Construction Industries Division and file a complaint at (505) 476-4700 and they will walk you through the processing of filing a complaint.

What About Desert Rose?

What process did Desert Rose take to become licensed?

To obtain an MS-06 (the license related to sprinkler systems), it took a minimum of 2 years apprenticing with a licensed contractor who has an MS-06 or higher, then testing, and ultimately passing the New Mexico state exam.

We also had to take and pass a business and law exam, purchase a bond, and after applying for and paying a fee, we received our license. To qualify for our business license, we paid a fee and passed an inspection after applying to the city. We also paid a fee and submitted an application to be approved for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Plant Protection license.

As mentioned above, if you are licensed through Construction Industries Division, you are required to have carry insurance and be bonded. Desert Rose Landscape & Maintenance carries all required licenses, insurances, and is bonded.

Can non-licensed companies offer guarantees? What about Desert Rose?

Yes they can, but if the cost is too great, they may not back it up in the long run. Desert Rose Landscape & Maintenance provides quality services and does guarantee its work.

The quality of Desert Rose Landscape & Maintenance starts with its sound legal practices, extends through to our extensive training with employees, and results in our professional services provided to you, the customer.

Have more questions related licensed/non-licensed professionals?

Contact us at any time for answers and ask us for more details when inquiring about your upcoming projects.

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