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Be Wary of Unlicensed Tree Companies
With Hurricane Sandy come and gone, leaving fallen branches and trees in its wake, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds homeowners to make sure that anyone they hire for tree trimming or removal is a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert.
“Just because someone has the tools and self-proclaimed knowhow, doesn’t mean they are certified with the State,” said Marian Honeczy, supervisor of DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry. “Be wary of those who show up unsolicited after a storm looking to perform tree work. Take your time and do your research.”
The State has a consumer protection law that requires anyone (individuals and businesses) who advertises or conducts tree trimmings, treatment, removal, or other care for compensation, to be a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert. Licensed experts are required to carry insurance that covers tree care work. Therefore, if property damage or personal injury occurs during the tree work, the licensed worker’s insurance will cover it. Unlicensed workers are not always covered by a customer’s home insurance.
When selecting a tree company, citizens should:
- Ask for the Maryland Licensed Tree Expert number, and verify it at: dnr.state.md.us/forests/tree_expert_search.asp;
- Request a copy of their certificate of insurance;
- Never pay the full amount before all work is completed as per the contract;
- Ask questions ─ Ask them to explain how they are going to do the job, ask for references, and then look them up;
- Find out if the tree service advocates tree topping, a harmful practice. If they do, avoid hiring the company;
- Gather multiple estimate for the proposed work;
- Obtain a written work contract that states the work to be performed and the cost.
To file a complaint against a Maryland Licensed Tree Expert or an unlicensed company, citizens must complete the complaint form located at dnr.state.md.us/forests/download/treeexpcomplaintform.doc and include any evidence such as cancelled checks, contracts, photos, or advertisements. Anonymous complaints cannot be investigated. The Maryland Forest Service enforcement authority cannot recoup funds paid out; the plaintiff will need to file civil action in their county court.