It is easy to overlook some of the details when hiring a landscape contractor to do work on your home. The landscape contractor has his own truck with a logo on it and everything. All the employees have what at least passes for uniforms. So, everything seems legitimate. But, if that landscape contractor doesn’t have a license or the proper insurance, suddenly you are on the hook for everything that could happen at your home.
There are a lot of “contractors” running around out there are not actually legitimate businesses. They do not have business licenses, or have let them lapse. If you hire one of these “contractors,” then you are the official employer in the eyes of the law. Because that company does not legally exist in the eyes of the state, your home suddenly becomes the place of employment for everyone working at your home. You have to meet OSHA requirements regarding employee injury. If one of the workers is injured at your home, you are liable for the medical bills. Not to mention any lawsuit that may come from said injury. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, if a business has a business license and more than three employees, the business is required to have Worker’s Comp Insurance, which would cover any employee injuries. This does not mean, however, that the landscape contractor you have hired actually does have the required insurance. If the contractor’s worker’s comp insurance has expired, the contractor is no longer a valid business. Of course, this mean you are liable for any injuries that happen on your property.
Virginia does not require contractors to have general liability insurance. So, even if the contractor has a license and the up-to-date worker’s compensations insurance, you may still be at risk. You would be liable for any damages to your own property or to anyone that happens to wander into the work area and get injured. Say one of your neighbors walks on your property while a pool is being installed and slips and falls, severely injuring himself. If the contractor does not have liability insurance, those medical bills are on you. Or, say one of the employees accidentally drives his car through your screened in porch. The contractor isn’t liable for that if they aren’t insured. The employee is. Good luck getting him to pay for it. Of course, you can always take the contractor to court to prove that the contractor is liable. If a contractor can’t afford to pay for insurance, your run a great risk of forcing the contractor into bankruptcy. At which point, you are going to have to fight over his assets with the rest of the creditors. And, did you know that your bank can raise your mortgage, if you hire an uninsured or underinsured contractor. After all, the bank technically owns the house and has a right to protect its investment.
Sure, there are a lot of good landscape contractors out there that don’t have their licenses and proper insurances. They probably do good work and are a lot cheaper than companies that have to spend a significant amount of their profit on protecting you, the homeowner. But, in the end, you, the homeowner, must decide if the cheaper price is worth the potentially disastrous accidents that could happen. Remember to always ask any contractors for up-to-date business licenses, worker’s comp insurance, and general liability insurance. The good ones will produce those items without question.