Gardening Scams And How To Avoid Them
Sadly, gardening scams are alarmingly easy to pull off; a survey conducted by Which? members in 2015 found that 37% hadn’t checked if the tree surgeon they hired was properly insured or qualified. Rogue traders are able to operate at next to no cost and with zero qualifications so it’s vital that you call in a reputable firm if you want work done in your garden. Cowboy gardeners are nothing new; they may rock up at your front door promising a fabulous garden transformation, but end up leaving the space looking far worse than before and with you considerably out of pocket. The key is doing your homework so you know what to look out for.
When alarm bells should ring…
Suspiciously low quotations generally mean something isn’t right and that corners will be cut. Be wary of anyone who tries to sell their services to you as an experienced hedge cutter or tree surgeon for instance and insist on seeing a license if they have approached you unsolicited. Never shell out an upfront deposit to workers who claim to need funds to buy materials; genuine tradespeople have credit facilities in place with building merchants.
If you get a huge variation in quotes for a job it may simply be the case that you haven’t provided sufficiently clear and detailed instructions. For example, if you need someone to plant a hedge on your property, the cost of the job will vary enormously depending on the type and size of plant and what is required in terms of ground preparation. Remember – not everyone is a crook!
Garden service scammers often do things such as identifying trees they claim are “dangerous” and need to be removed or cut back. Such traders can be extremely persuasive and they often target the elderly and vulnerable as they may be more trusting or easily scared.
How to protect yourself
As long as you demand paperwork and get quotes from several other companies before agreeing for any work to be carried out you should be fine. Make sure you pay attention to CVs and follow up on any references provided. The key is to ensure you are employing a reputable company that will provide a professional service. Whoever you choose in the end, check that they have public liability and employers’ liability insurance.
Personal recommendation is the best option; seeing the contractor’s previous work is ideal so you can be confident about the quality of work they can provide.
It is worth being aware of the relevant professional association and seeing if the tradesman you are considering employing is a member. These associations vet contractors by checking referees and arbitrate in disputes, but bear in mind that many smaller – perfectly reputable – contractors aren’t members of these organisations because of the cost and effort involved – not because they aren’t reputable operators.
So long as you do your homework you will be fine. Ultimately, the key is to be on your guard if you find yourself on the receiving end of any unsolicited offer of garden services. Any opener such as ‘I just happen to be working in this area’ or ‘I need cash up front’ should send you running for the hills…. Vetting is all-important; making sure you ask to see CVs, licenses and follow up on references is well worth the time to ensure you don’t end up being a victim of what some have called ‘daylight shrubbery’.