12 Questions to ask a Landscaper contractor that you are looking to engage

1. What is your contractor licence number?

You should only deal with a contractor who is currently licensed by NSW Fair Trading.  All residential landscapers need to be licenced (either Structural Landscaping or Building).

2. Where can I see examples of your work?

Ask the contractor for the addresses of previous properties they have landscaped and if you are comfortable ask the owners if they were satisfied with the results.

Some questions you can ask:

  • Was the project finished on time?
  • Did they stay close to the quoted costs?
  • Was there proper supervision of the other tradespeople?
  • Did any defective work get fixed promptly?
  • Would they recommend the contractor?
  • And importantly, was there good communication with the contractor?

3. What other jobs have you got on at the moment?

A contractor with a lot of work on may not be able to properly manage your job as well.

4. Who will supervise the work?

A contractor doing a large job may get a supervisor to manage the project.

Make sure the supervisor has:

  • sufficient experience in the type of work you want done and
  • a current Supervisor Certificate from NSW Fair Trading or
  • their contractor's licence is appropriately endorsed.

5. Do you have proper insurance?

It is important to check the contractor has all the necessary insurance cover to protect you and your home if something goes wrong.

The different issues and types of insurance that may be required:

  • Home Building Compensation Fund Insurance - For any works over $20K the Landscaper also needs to have HBCF (Home Building Compensation Fund insurance formally known as Home Warranty Insurance).  If you are a home owner, check that a valid insurance certificate has been obtained for the work you want done. Do this before work starts and before paying any money. Without it, you will not be able to be compensated for defective or incomplete building work if the builder becomes insolvent, dies or disappears.
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Workers Compensation or Insurance

6. How much deposit do you need?

Under NSW home building law, the maximum deposit you can be asked to pay is 10%.

If the work is required to be covered by insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund, it is illegal for the contractor to ask for a deposit or other payment under the contract unless the insurance has been taken out, and a certificate of the insurance is given to you.

Important. It is highly recommended that you check the validity of the insurance certificate given to you by accessing the register of insurance certificates on www.hbcf.nsw.gov.au.

7. When can you start the work and how long will it take?

If you want the work done by a specific date, make sure the time frame provided in the contract:

  • is realistic
  • takes into account possible delays through bad weather or the late supply of materials
  • has a start date and completion date.
  • Make sure you and the contractor are clear on what they consider 'complete'.

8. What sort of contract will be used?

If the cost of labour and materials is more than $5,000, the law requires a written contract to be used.

Contracts are not only legal requirements, they will protect you if anything goes wrong.

9. How much will it cost?

Make sure:

  • the contractor includes the total cost of the work in the contract
  • estimated costs are clearly stated in the contract and are realistic
  • you understand how and why costs may change and how the total cost can be affected (eg. some builders will specify the site cost in the contract as a 'provisionary cost item'. This means that this cost may change depending on what the builder's actual costs are in preparing the site. If the site is difficult to build on, or the builders hit solid rock, it will cost you more).

10. When are progress payments to be made?

Most building contracts have a fixed price and should provide for payments to be made for work done, not time on the job. Progress payments should be equal to the dollar value of work completed.

11. What happens if the work is defective?

This question will help you get a sense of how the builder is likely to deal with any complaints you may have about the work. You should know in advance what your options are if a dispute arises.

12. Who cleans the site?

Get this clear from the start so when work is completed, you are not left with a big mess, or a dangerous building site. Make sure an agreement about cleaning the site regularly is included in the contract.

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