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UW CES urges homeowners to be cautious when hiring tree services


Homeowners in Wyoming and surrounding states are urged to take precautions when hiring an individual or company to provide tree services.

"Beware of anyone knocking on your door and offering such services," advised Karen Panter, state horticulture specialist with the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service. "Tactics described by the International Society of Arboriculture-Rocky Mountain Chapter (ISA-RMC) are not uncommon in Wyoming."

Melanie Goetz, executive director of the ISA-RMC, which includes Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, said, "During this grueling economy, most people are cautiously watching each and every one of their hard-earned dollars."

Because of this, she said, "It might be tempting to find the cheapest way to fix a problem if you are in need of an arborist for your trees. But, if you're not careful, lawn and tree care scam artists, often known as 'travelers,' might rip you off."

Goetz added, "Travelers typically scope out more established, middle-income neighborhoods where older residents live and where mature landscapes, particularly trees, allow them unlimited opportunities to ply their trade."

Following are tips on how homeowners can help protect themselves against travelers:

--Don't do business with unsolicited door-to-door contractors.

--Check with the ISA-RMC to make sure an arborist is certified. Many communities also require tree companies to be licensed, requiring their name and telephone number on all equipment.

--If the job is large, get more than one bid.

--Insist on a written contract detailing what will be done, materials used and start and completion dates.

--Ask for proof of liability and workers' compensation insurance.

--Don't pay any money up front.

--Don't pay in full until the job is complete, you're satisfied and you've received a "lien waiver" showing the contractor has paid subcontractors and suppliers and an inspector has signed off on the job. Payments should be made by check.

"Always check out the certification of tree and lawn care services," Goetz said. "When it comes to tree services, ask if they are certified arborists complying with local and state regulations, and check with the state ISA-RMC to make sure you and your trees are in good hands of a certified arborist."

Persons with questions can refer to the ISA-RMC Web page at www.isarmc.org, or they can contact Panter at 307-766-5117 or kpanter@uwyo.edu, Goetz at 303-756-1815 or melanie@hughesstuart.com, or William Scott, Wyoming director of the ISA-RMC, at 307-235-8281 or wscott@cityofcasperwy.com.

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