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10 Risks of Using an Uninsured or Unlicensed Arborist

An uninsured and unlicensed arborist is an individual who provides tree care services, such as pruning, removal, and maintenance, without holding the necessary professional certifications or licenses required by local or state regulations. Additionally, they do not carry insurance coverage that would protect against liability for damages or injuries that might occur during their work. 

Using an uninsured or unlicensed arborist presents several risks, including potential liability for damages or injuries, as they lack insurance coverage to protect against accidents. Their lack of proper certification may indicate insufficient training and expertise, leading to substandard or unsafe work. Homeowners might face legal repercussions for hiring unlicensed workers, especially if local regulations require certification. Additionally, any damage to property or personal injury caused by their work will not be covered by insurance, potentially resulting in significant out-of-pocket expenses. 

10 Dangers of Hiring an Uninsured or Unlicensed Arborist

Dangers of hiring an uninsured or unlicensed arborist include possible harm to the tree and environment, legal and financial risks, unexpected costs, and more.

When it comes to tree care, taking shortcuts can be costly. Hiring an uninsured or unlicensed arborist may seem like a way to save money, but it can lead to a variety of dangers, both for your property and your safety. 

Here are 10 risks of using an Uninsured or Unlicensed Arborist:

1. Property Damage

Hiring an uninsured or unlicensed arborist can lead to significant property damage, including:

  • Structural damage: Unskilled pruning or removal can damage a building’s roof, walls, or foundation, leading to costly repairs and potential inhabitability.
  • Land damage: Improper handling can cause soil erosion, water accumulation, or other environmental hazards.
  • Tree damage: Incorrect pruning or removal techniques can harm the tree’s health and lifespan.

Furthermore, if the arborist damages a neighboring or third-party property, the property owner may be held liable for the damages.

Certified arborists use standardized methods for tree trimming and removal. A reputable tree care company ensures the safe use of tools and equipment. Unlicensed services often mishandle chainsaws, causing accidents. Proper tree trimming and removal necessitate knowledge and experience. 

Property Damage Insurance Issues.jpg

2. Insurance Issues

If you hire an uninsured or unlicensed arborist, then you could be sued for injuries or damages, leaving you financially vulnerable. It’s essential to verify an arborist’s insurance and license before hiring them to protect against potential risks.

Here are the two most common insurance issues if you hire an Uninsured or Unlicensed Arborist:

  1. No Coverage for Your Property Damage: If an accident happens during the job (like a falling branch damaging your roof), the arborist’s lack of insurance means you’ll be responsible for repairs. Your homeowner’s insurance might not cover damage caused by an unlicensed worker, leaving you with a hefty bill.
  2. Liability for Worker Injuries: Uninsured arborists don’t have worker’s compensation insurance. If they get injured on your property, you could be held liable for their medical expenses and lost wages. This can be a significant financial burden.

3. Subpar Workmanship

The Subpar workmanship Issues of using an uninsured or unlicensed arborist include inferior tree care services, inadequate pruning, and incorrect tree removal techniques, which lead to damage to your trees and property, and potentially people and the environment.

The subpar workmanship issues of using an uninsured or unlicensed arborist can manifest in 3 ways:

  1. Uneven Cuts and Unshaped Trees: They might lack the knowledge and skill for proper pruning techniques, leading to uneven cuts, hacked branches, and an unattractive appearance for your trees.
  2. Improper Branch Removal: Incorrect branch removal can damage the tree’s health and structure, potentially leading to future problems or an increased risk of falling branches.
  3. Missed Issues and Ineffective Solutions: Without proper training, they might miss signs of disease or infestation, leading to further damage to your trees. Additionally, their solutions might be ineffective or even harmful.
Lack of Transparency and Legal & Financial Risk

4. Legal & Financial Risk

Hiring an uninsured and unlicensed arborist exposes you to legal and financial risks. You may be liable for injuries or damages to property, and may also face legal action if the arborist is injured on property. Furthermore, uninsured arborists may not have the financial resources to compensate you for damages, leaving you to cover the costs.

Here are the two most common legal and financial risks associated with hiring an Unlicensed Arborist:

  • Fines and Legal Trouble: Many areas have laws requiring arborists to be licensed and insured. Hiring an unlicensed worker can result in fines or even legal issues if the work is deemed unsafe.
  • Financial Burden from Injuries and Accidents: If the uninsured worker gets hurt on the job, you could be held liable for their medical bills and lost wages. Additionally, if their mistake damages your property or a neighbor’s, you’ll be on the hook for repairs without the protection of their insurance.

5. Hidden Costs

Misrepresenting or hidden cost issues can occur when hiring an uninsured or unlicensed arborist. They might offer a lower price for a project but later reveal extra costs, leading to financial losses for the homeowner.

Unlicensed arborists might downplay the job’s complexity to give a lower initial quote. Later, they might surprise you with additional charges or hidden fees for unexpected issues they uncover (which they may not be qualified to handle anyway).

Hidden cost Subpar Workmanship and Environmental Harm

6. Lack of Transparency

Lack of transparency issue of using an unlicensed arborist arises when they are reluctant to provide necessary information, making it difficult for homeowners to make informed decisions about their tree care.

Licensed professionals provide detailed updates, answer questions, and explain their approach before doing business with clients. This communication is absent with unlicensed individuals, which renders it difficult to fathom the extent & quality of work performed under them.

7. Environmental Harm

Unlicensed arborists can pose the risk of environmental damage, habitat destruction, species displacement, and increased soil erosion, which disrupts the delicate balance of ecosystems and results in long-term environmental harm.

Unlicensed arborists often lack the expertise to assess the environmental impact of their actions, leading to devastating consequences.

Noncompliance with Regulations, No Warranty on Services and Long term risks

8. Noncompliance with Regulations

Noncompliance with regulations occurs when an unlicensed arborist fails to comply with the policies, standards, regulations, or laws relevant to their operations.

An unlicensed arborist lacks knowledge about industry standards and proper tool techniques, which can lead to property damage, worker injuries, and deaths. Failure to obtain proper certifications or licenses, insufficient administration of operations, and failure to report to relevant authorities are some examples of noncompliance.

Noncompliance with regulations leads to severe consequences, including financial losses, injuries, and imprisonment. Governments may even regulate non-compliant activities out of business. The cost of noncompliance can reach millions. Therefore, prioritizing proactive compliance is essential to avoid penalties, reputational damage, and product delays.

9. No Warranty on Services

Hiring an unlicensed and uninsured tree service company offers no warranty on services. An unlicensed tree trimmer lacks proper credentials. This absence voids contractual guarantees. Licensed and insured tree service companies provide liability insurance. Insurance policy protects clients from damage.

What Are the Signs that An Arborist Might Not Be Qualified?

Hiring a qualified arborist is essential to ensuring the health and safety of your trees. Here are 5 key signs to watch out for that could indicate an unqualified arborist, including no certifications, unprofessional communication, etc.; see the full list below:

  1. Lack of certification: Certified arborists have passed exams and met qualifications demonstrating their knowledge of tree care. Uncertified individuals may lack the proper training to handle your trees.
  2. Recommends harmful practices: Practices like tree topping and using spikes for climbing trees, can damage trees. A qualified arborist will advise against such methods.
  3. Doesn’t carry insurance: Proper insurance protects you from liability if accidents occur during tree work. Uninsured arborists put you at financial risk.
  4. Unprofessional communication: Unclear communication, soliciting work door-to-door, or using only a mobile number are signs of unprofessional conduct.
  5. Hesitant to answer questions: A qualified arborist should be happy to answer your questions about their experience, qualifications, and the work process.

What Qualifications Should a Licensed Arborist Have?

To ensure the highest level of expertise in tree care and management, arborists should possess a variety of specialized certifications that demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and dedication to the field.

Here are 4 common qualifications for licensed Arborists:

  1. ISA Certified Arborist: To receive the ISA Certified Arborist certification, you are required to have three years of practical experience or a degree in arboriculture, landscape architecture, horticulture, or related disciplines, in addition to passing an exam.
  2. Board Certified Master Arborist (BCMA): The BCMA certification is the pinnacle of ISA’s certification program. An existing ISA Certified Arborist who holds a high level of knowledge, experience, and skill is eligible to apply for this certification.
  3. Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ): The ISA also offers TRAQ, an industry-recognized credential that shows your competence in tree risk assessment, offering a specialized path within the field of arboriculture.
  4. ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA): The American Society of Consulting Arborists grants RCA certification to individuals demonstrating advanced skills in the analysis, diagnosis, and documentation of tree-related issues and presenting solutions.

What Types of Insurance Are Important for An Arborist to Carry?

Arborists should carry several key types of insurance to protect their business and operations. Essential coverage includes general liability insurance to cover property damage and injuries, workers’ compensation to protect employees, commercial auto insurance for company vehicles, and contractor’s tools and equipment insurance. Arborists may also benefit from professional liability and business interruption policies.

What Are Some Long-Term Risks to My Trees if An Unqualified Person Works on Them?

Hiring unqualified tree workers or arborists can lead to various potential long-term consequences, including property damage, tree death, structural defects, tree failure, tree decline, electrical hazards, storm-related damage, pest and disease infestations, environmental damage, liability, and legal issues. These consequences may result in financial losses, increased accidents, injuries, property value decline, environmental harm, and potential lawsuits.

Are Arborists Good for The Environment?

Arborists are essential for the environment as they maintain and care for trees, which are vital for healthy ecosystems and play a crucial role in mitigating the effects of climate change.

What Are Some Examples of Sub-Par Work Quality Risks with An Uninsured or Unlicensed Arborist?

Sub-par work quality risks with an uninsured or unlicensed arborist can include improper pruning techniques, damage to tree structure, failure to identify and address underlying issues, use of improper equipment or tools, etc. This can result in further damage to your trees, reduced tree health and lifespan, and the need for costly remediation.

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