BALTIMORE — Now that spring weather has arrived, many Maryland homeowners are thinking about how they can improve their lawns and gardens. For some, it’s a matter of mowing and trimming. Others may want to adjust their landscaping, while considering the environmental impact using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
For those who lack a green thumb, a lawn care service or landscaper can help give you the yard of your dreams. However, it’s important to pick the right company. Hiring the wrong company could turn your dream landscape into a nightmare.
Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland advises consumers to get clear, written expectations for the services the company will provide and agree on a fee before work starts.
Last year, BBB received over 7,000 complaints against landscape contractors and lawn maintenance contractors. Many of the consumers were unhappy with the services provided and alleged the companies they hired did not perform the duties they agreed upon. Others complained about problems with advertising or billing. Local homeowners also expressed dissatisfaction with recurring contracts that they believe they did not authorize. That’s why it’s important to do your research before hiring a lawn care business.
BBB offers the following tips for finding a lawn care company you can trust:
Know what you want from a lawn service. Lawn care companies provide many services, so it is important to decide which services and products are appropriate for your needs and budget. If environmental impact is of concern, ask for substantiation of any “eco-friendly” products advertised.
You get what you pay for – usually. High quality fertilizers, seed and other products will inevitably cost more, but in the long run, may very well be worth the added investment.
Check references. Ask the company for references and photos of previously completed projects. Call references, and ask about their experience working with the company and if they were satisfied with the services provided.
Ask for a lawn inspection and free estimate. Lawn care companies that quote a price without seeing your lawn may not give you an accurate estimate. A company should be willing to visit your home to provide you with an agreed upon fee. Cost is usually based on the size of your lawn so make sure they provide an accurate measurement of your yard not only for pricing, but to ensure the fertilizer is applied at the proper rate for your property.
Get a written agreement. A contract should clearly state the services you will receive, guarantees and refund policies, as well as, how and when payment will be handled. If you are using a recurring service, the contract should also include how often the company will come out to work on your lawn, how to cancel the service and a schedule for when payments are due.
Shop around. Get written estimates from a few different companies. Keep in mind the cheapest is not always the best. You may want to pay more for higher quality services.
If your lawn maintenance or landscape provider service include fertilizer, Maryland has very specific laws and rules for lawn care providers that promote healthy lawns and protect our waterways from nutrient runoff. Make sure your agreement includes the following:
- Soil test
- Certification by MD Department of Agriculture to apply pesticides and fertilizers
- Performance of the services only during prescribed periods, excluding December 1 through March 1.
For more information, contact your BBB or the Maryland Department of Agriculture.