Any time someone comes along in your neighborhood and offers to do a landscaping job – for example, a wall or a patio – for much cheaper than the other estimates you received, this should raise red flags. It’s common to see unlicensed contractors doing these types of jobs, and there are several significant risks the homeowner should consider before hiring one of them.

First, always check to be sure the contractor is licensed via the Contractors State License Board website  (http://www.cslb.ca.gov/).  One of the reasons they may be offering low-cost work is that they don’t have the proper credentials and insurance, and might be paying their crews “under the table”.

There are several problems with people who work this way. First, being unlicensed means that you can’t be guaranteed of the quality of work you will receive. These unlicensed contractors often cut corners on vital steps of a job, such as properly preparing the land or using quality materials. A landscaping job which is improperly done can quickly become an eyesore or cost more money in the long run. The homeowner generally ends up having to hire a licensed contractor to redo the entire job, which will often involve the cost of labor to remove inferior materials and start over from scratch. The final cost to the homeowner can greatly exceed the price of getting a quality job in the first place.

Also, if this contractor does not carry workers’ compensation insurance on his employees, a significant financial liability can fall on you, the homeowner, in the event that someone is injured while doing your job. In that case a claim may be filed against you and your homeowner’s insurance, and you could end up in court being sued for damages. Many homeowners are unaware of this potential for financial disaster when they hire unlicensed and uninsured contractors.

These types of operations, in which unlicensed and uninsured contractors perform low-quality and unsafe work, should be viewed as potential scams by homeowners. The state of California encourages individuals who are aware of such activity to report it to the Contractors State License Board: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/ReportUnlicensedActivity/ .

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