As a landscape contractor in a small town that sees quite a bit of it, I was under the impression that the rotten contractor syndrome was isolated to small towns or at least my area. However, the more I read and listen to people, it’s quite evident that it is a nation wide problem.

So what is the rotten contractor syndrome? First, it’s not just limited to the landscaping trade. It’s in all construction trades. From contractors who don’t return initial calls, to juggling your job with several others, never actually finishing the job, using cheap materials, and not taking care of warranty work. And I believe that most everybody who has dealt with a contractor at one time or another has dealt with it on one level or another.

While most landscaping companies start their businesses with the best intentions, many fall into this pattern that continues throughout the rest of their careers or at least until they’re run out of business. How some survive as long as they do, I’ll never understand.

So how do you find a reputable contractor and how can you avoid the rotten ones? First, let me tell you what you don’t do.

It’s not a good idea to completely trust the word of any single source and especially the companies who provide a list of pre-screened and pre-qualified contractors. While they want you to believe they’ve checked everyone out with a fine tooth comb, they haven’t. And I know this first hand on several occasions.

On several occasions I have been contacted by phone by the top players in the contractor screening and broker field. They always have an overflow of clients and not enough companies to take the jobs. And without knowing anything about me or my company, they have all offered me leads if I would simple pay them for them. No screening, no qualification, no questions asked. Fortunately, my little company has a waiting list backed for a good six months so we never have to “buy” a single client. However, the point is, if you simply trust their word, you could still end up burned.

O.K., so how do you find a good reputable contractor? While you may trust the brokers for initial leads and contacts, the rest is up to you. In my opinion, the brokers are only as good as the yellow pages and your local chamber of commerce. Regardless how you make contact, you have to do a little homework and protect you yourself.


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