CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is encouraging homeowners to be mindful when selecting a company to help with landscaping, yard work and tree trimming.

“With spring here and summer fast approaching, many people will start to tackle those outside projects that have been waiting for better weather,”  Morrisey said in a press release. “It’s important that people really take just a little extra time to make sure the company they hire to help with these projects is one they can trust.”

He said one of the most important things a homeowner can do before selecting a landscaping, general yard work or tree trimming contractor is to determine what needs to be done and research companies that can perform those services. Consumers should ask the landscapers or yard service companies for references and then call those references. Homeowners also may research the company on trusted review sites.

If the work is a larger project, get several detailed estimates that include a full description of the project, all of the materials that will be needed, and all of the costs associated with the project.

If a landscape offers a “free” estimate, follow him as he does it, and get a second opinion before committing. Don’t hesitate to ask specific questions, including whether the company has general liability and workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees, and what kinds of professional training the employees have that relates to the project.

“When you’re looking for someone to do work around your home, it helps to be a good partner in the project,” Morrisey said. “Be clear about the size and scope of the work you’d like done, including plans and drawings if you have them.

"Making sure you’re on the same page as your landscaper from the beginning can save you time and money in the long run.”

There are few tips to keep in mind to avoid landscaping scams:

* Avoid door-to-door crews who catch you off guard. Cold calling often leads to making decisions before thoroughly reviewing all other options. Be on the lookout for crews like these who may be circulating in your neighborhood.

* Don’t feel pressured to hire someone immediately. Take time to carefully review the services they are offering.

* Request references, and be wary if the landscaper doesn’t have any. Ask for and then independently verify the landscaper’s address and landline phone number.

* Do not pay cash up front, and keep detailed records of all payments made.

* Make sure you’re satisfied with the job that has been done before giving it a final release.

“Large landscaping projects can be overwhelming," Morrisey said. "Some people dread the thought of doing yard work and would rather contract that chore out to others.

"While there’s no shortage of reliable and trustworthy people who can provide that service, consumers need to take steps to protect themselves from the few who may be trying to be deceitful.”

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