Did you know that hiring an unlicensed contractor exposes you to hidden risks?
Before you hire a landscaper it’s a good idea to check with your local licensing agency to verify if they have permission to work in your area. A licensed contractor has to take an exam (in most cases) and adhere to state regulations and are required to have insurance.

Here are the hidden risks:
1) The absence of a license when required usually means that the contractor is uninsured.  A uninsured contractor may not be covered under your homeowner’s policy and leave you exposed to paying for “on the job” injuries.
2) An unlicensed contractor can walk away with your money and the licensing agency will not be able to help you track them down.
3) An unlicensed contractor’s workmanship may be shoddy. You may end up hiring a professional to finish the job and end up paying twice.

I recently asked my insurance agent about the risks involved when hiring an uninsured contractor and here’s what he said: 

” If this person (contractor) brings a helper and either one is injured doing work for you, you are liable for their injuries. Sometimes, the workers comp coverage offered on your homeowners policy may cover them if they work less than 40 hours a week.  BOTTOM LINE:  Never hire a contractor without at least getting a certificate showing Liability of at least $500,000. As an added layer of protection have the homeowner named additional insured on that certificate. Also, if there are employees and not just the owner, a certificate of Workers Compensation must be presented.  All this before work begins.”  – Thom Ianniccari, CPIA (Thom@reisinsurance.com)

Some tips on spotting an unlicensed contractor:
1) Usually no written contract and no license number listed on trucks
2) Requests a large lump sum before they start work
3) Unmarked cars with no company name
4) Only wants to work on weekends or after hours
5) Typically will work for less money

 The benefits of hiring a licensed contractor:
1) For the most part (but not always) a licensed contractor will show professionalism and commitment because they do not want to risk losing their license.
2) A licensed contractor is willing to fix any problems and if you are still unhappy you can easily contact the licensing agency and they will serve as the mediator.
3) You can easily lodge a complaint to the licensing agency if needed about a licensed contractor.
4) Licensed contractors are required to have General Liability and Worker’s Compensation.

Here’s a link to local licensing agencies:
Westchester County
Putnam County 
Bergen County (New Jersey)

We at Peak Landscaping are committed to our customers and employees and adhere to all insurance and licensing requirements.  So next time you are considering doing a project for your home whether it’s landscaping or a new remodeling project make sure the contractor has a license.  Protect yourself by doing a little bit of homework. It will pay off at the end.

Have you hired an unlicensed contractor recently?

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