When you’re looking to hire a landscape contractor to transform your outdoor space into a relaxing getaway, make sure you choose credible licensed professionals. Bay Scenery, a licensed California landscape contractor, has undergone state exams certifying a high level of construction ability and application of building codes. You may be tempted to pick someone without a license who quotes a low price, or you might be unaware of how to find a reputable licensed landscape contractor. The following points will help you make informed decisions about who you’ll allow to do landscape construction on your property.

Verify Landscape Contractor License Status Landscape Contractor

When you find a landscaper you’re interested in hiring, enter their contractor’s license number on the California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board (CSLB) “Check a License” web page. You can also search under the company name or owner’s name to see if they are in the system. Along with the status of the license, you’ll find several other pieces of information you need to know about the contractor.

Complaints Against Contractor

The CSLB assists homeowners who file construction-related complaints against licensed landscape contractors. They offer help with dispute mediation, complaint investigation, arbitration and disciplinary action. CSLB will list public complaints and construction-related civil judgments against contractors on the license lookup web page. These findings may weigh in your decision-making process.

However, if you’re thinking of hiring an unlicensed contractor, their information wouldn’t be in the system. If you run into legal issues with unlicensed contractors, CSLB won’t be able to enforce repayment owed to you or make the contractor complete repairs.

Contractor’s Bond

Licensed landscape contractors are required to have a bond on file with CSLB to cover construction related damages and to ensure payment of wages to employees. Unlicensed contractors likely won’t have the financial reserves on hand to take responsibility, leaving you the homeowner to foot the bill for any damages to your property and unpaid wages.

Worker’s Compensation

Current worker’s compensation insurance effective dates are listed on the CSLB license check website. Licensed landscape contractors are required to carry workers compensation to cover their employee’s medical claims.

“You don’t want to employ anybody that doesn’t have workers comp, you just don’t,” says Bay Scenery’s Ian Harris, RME.

Again, unlicensed contractors most likely won’t have workers comp leaving you financially liable to pay worker’s medical bills.

Understanding Mechanic’s Lien

The mechanic’s lien was created to be a deterrent for homeowners to skip paying contractors. But, if you deal with unlicensed and unregulated contractors, you may hand over a large sum of money to them expecting they will pay their sub-contractors and suppliers. Who’s to stop the unlicensed contractor from disappearing with the money, leaving you with upset unpaid workers and a lien against your home for the money still owed to them?

When working with a licensed landscape contractor, homeowners can require a paper trail ensuring everyone is getting paid. Harris says,

“Some homeowners when they make a progress payment, require the contractor to give them a lien release for that amount of money, confirming the general contractor has paid the sub-contractors up to this particular moment.”

Allowing unlicensed contractors to work on your property puts you in financial and legal danger. Running a license check on the CSLB website is the easiest way to filter out unlicensed contractors. If the website shows a deactivated license or several legal complaints, this may not be the right contractor for you.