As a consumer, it is your right and responsibility to ask a contractor you might hire a few qualifying questions.

The answers to these questions will determine whether or not you want him on your property, working for you.

We at Tip Top Arborists welcome these questions because we now know that the potential client is concerned about their property and quality of work performed, NOT just the cost.

So, what questions should be asked? Here are ten (10) common ones.

1. How long has your company been in business?

Experience does matter. A seasoned contractor will provide you the peace of mind knowing that he can produce promised results. You have an investment in your property that you wouldn’t want to hand over to a novice – would you?

2. May I see your contractors license?

States have stringent requirements for applying for a contractor license . In California, if you are performing work that exceeds $500.00 in labor/material you must be a licensed contractor. There are different types of licenses, too. Don’t hire someone that has a license for Landscaping (C-27) when you want Tree Trimming (C-61/D49). No only is the experience different, but what their insurance covers too. Here’s another item to note – California state law requires all forms of advertisement (cards, ads, truck signs, etc) carry the contractor’s license number. If you call that business card left on your front door or under your windshield wiper and ask the person that answers the phone for their license number, don’t be fooled by the “I’m sorry, I can’t give that to you until I come out to your house” spin.

3. Do you have a copy of your Liability and Workers Compensation insurance?

Liability insurance protects your property from damage. Workers Compensation insurance protects YOU from a contractor’s employee injury on your property. Ask the prospective contractor for copies of both. If you hire a contractor that is uninsured, YOU take the responsibility of insuring them per CA Labor Code § 2750.5. (For an example of the consequences of hiring an uninsured company, refer to Fernandez v. Lawson). A contractor working out of classification may not carry the insurance to cover the work he is performing. While no one ever wants to be faced with an injury on the job site, one needs to be prepared. You, as the individual hiring a contractor, should have peace of mind knowing that the unforeseeable is covered.

4. How long will the job take?

This is a question most don’t ask, but should. Your job should be the focus of your contractor and worked until completed. Only Mother Nature or some other unforeseen issue should delay completion.

5. What is your payment schedule?

You NEVER pay the job up front, and a reputable contractor will never ask you to. California law states a contractor may not ask for more than 10% of the total job or $1000.00, whichever is less. Full payment upon completion of job is standard unless previous financial arrangements are made before the commencement of work.

6. Who will you send to perform the work?

You should expect consistency from your contractor, especially with jobs that may take more than one (1) day. Tip Top Arborists will send only ISA-trained individuals will be sent to your project site, NOT someone picked up at your local home improvement outlet.

7. How do I stay in contact with you?

In today’s world of technology, staying in touch should be easy. Whether it be texting, emails, phone calls or that oft-forgotten face to face conversation, have the discussion with your contractor on how it will be best to communicate.

8. What hours will you be working, do I need to be there and is there anything I need to prepare for?

Your contractor should be able to give you a window of arrival time. For crews that have multiple jobs scheduled for the day, the first job of the day is usually the only one with a guaranteed start time. Most cities have a noise ordinance that, for weekdays, is usually 7 AM.

To stay, or leave, is up to you. For the most part, tree trimming doesn’t require a homeowner present. But if you have a special bird bath given you by Great Aunt Gertrude, or a prized ’57 Chevy hubby is restoring, make sure those are brought to the attention of your contractor and crew.

9. What will my property look like at the end of the day?

Any professional contractor will ensure that your property is clean at the end of the work day, whether it was a 2 hour job or one that runs multiple days. Tip Top Arborists treats your property as if it was our own.

10. How do you protect my property during work?

Before work starts, the crew should walk the property looking for items that need to be moved or protected. Pictures of any existing damage should be taken and sent to the client before work starts to document the site. Remember Great Aunt Gertrude’s bird bath? The ’57 Chevy? Those items, and many other on the property, will be moved/protected during work. Plants, pool, patio furniture will be covered as required and any windows that might be at risk will be protected. At the end of the job, the site should look as good, if not better, than when the crew entered the property.