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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawn Care Company in San Jose

Whether you are doing it for the love of the natural environment or to improve the appeal of your property, it is best to leave your lawn care to qualified professionals. Nine in ten realtors believe professionally groomed lawns can fetch the homeowner a whopping 267 percent of the project cost at resale.

To ensure you hire a properly skilled and experienced lawn care provider who is conversant with the Santa Clara Landscape Ordinance, always ask the following questions:

How Long Have You Been in the Lawn Care Business in San Jose?

A firm that has stood the test of time provides more assurance to trust and experience in getting the job done satisfactorily. Most newer businesses are known to be fly-by-night companies that sometimes disappear with clients' investments. Hence, inquiring about the length of business experience of your lawn care company is a wise step toward guaranteeing yourself good service delivery.

To this end, you should consider a San Jose lawn care service that has served more than a dozen clients and operated for over two years in your community. Generally, such firms have established a good reputation and would be happy to refer you to satisfied clients in your neighborhood. Also, note that a well-experienced lawn care service would have more proficient landscapers on their payroll to help their clients. You should have a landscaper who is conversant with the San Jose's Landscaping Ordinance managing your lawn. These landscapers are familiar with the best grasses and plants that can thrive in the city's climate, as well as the best ways to care for these plants.

Common examples of grasses and plants native to San Jose's all-year-round warm weather and popular among homeowners in the city include:

  • Bitter Gooseberry
  • Blue-Eyed Grass
  • California Buckwheat
  • California Flannel Bush
  • California Fuchsia
  • California Lilac
  • California Pitcher Plant
  • California Wild Rose
  • Chaparral Yucca
  • Climbing Penstemon
  • Coast Live Oak
  • Coastal Groundcover Gum Plant
  • Common Snowberry
  • Coyote Mint
  • Desert Fairy Duster
  • Dwarf Coyote Bush
  • Golden Yarrow
  • Hummingbird Sage
  • Manzanitas
  • Mattole River White Leaf Fuchsia
  • Milkweeds
  • Monkey Flowers
  • Penstemons
  • Pipestem Clematis
  • Purplish Morning Glory
  • Western Redbud
  • Woolly Blue Curls

Ensure to do your due diligence on any lawn care company that you plan to hire, regardless of how long they may have been in business. If you're considering working with a company, it's a good idea to do some background research on them beforehand by requesting and checking references from satisfied customers. Websites like Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review may be helpful.

Do You Hold Any Professional Qualifications Relevant to Lawn Care?

In the quest to perform your due diligence on your preferred lawn care company, it is also crucial to determine if your landscapers hold any relevant professional qualifications. In order to prove their worth, lawn care professionals generally get credentials beyond the minimum requirements set forth by their jurisdiction. Such credentials may include state-mandated licenses as well as voluntarily-obtained certifications.

While California statutory law does not require professionals providing lawn services strictly to carry a state-issued license, San Jose landscapers providing services worth more than $500 must carry a license issued by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Landscapers that perform contracts above $500 without an appropriate license can be charged with a misdemeanor. A violation that is punishable by jail time of up to six months, fines of up to $15,000, or a combination of jail time and fines. Similarly, homeowners who hire such unlicensed persons may suffer civil liabilities in case of an injury at work.

Listed below are the requirements to be licensed by CSLB as a landscaper in California:

  • The applicant must be at least 18 years old
  • The applicant must complete and return an Application for Original Contractor License form
  • Pay a nonrefundable application fee
  • Provide acceptable documentation to verify that they have attained the board's mandatory minimum work experience requirements for new licensees
  • Pass a board-administered licensing examination
  • Submit proof of adequate insurance and bond coverage

To verify if your San Jose landscaper is licensed by CSLB, you can call the agency at (800) 321-2752. Note that San Jose landscapers who apply pesticides as part of their services must complete a separate licensing and certification process, which is handled by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). This process typically includes:

  • Passing a certification examination with a score of at least 70 percent
  • Paying all stipulated fees
  • Registering with the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner's Office

You can contact the DPR's Licensing and Certification Office at (916) 445-4038 to get more information on its licensing and certification process for landscapers that apply pesticides as part of their services.

In addition to obtaining the mandatory license for a landscaper, your San Jose lawn care professional may also hold other certifications. These certifications are voluntary and are granted by professional bodies in various fields within the landscaping industry, including organic farming, arboriculture, landscape irrigation, etc. Holding any of these certifications is a further testament to the skill and experience of the lawn care service provider. Some of the certifications your San Jose lawn care firm may offer for your assurance include certification from well-known and reputable organizations and trade associations like:

  • The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA)
  • The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
  • The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
  • The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS)
  • The Irrigation Association (IA)
  • The Santa Clara Valley Green Gardener Program

Without a doubt, hiring a lawn care provider with a landscaper license and other certifications goes a long way in assuring you that your lawn will be well-managed by a skilled and competent professional. You can verify the licenses and certifications provided by a contractor by contacting the issuing organization. The CSLB's Check a License and the DPR's List of Licensees pages may come in handy in this search.

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Lawn Care Companies in San Jose?

Finding out how much other lawn care businesses in San Jose charge for their services puts you in a strong position to negotiate a good deal with your preferred contractor. Note that most lawn care providers in the city use one of the following pricing structures for determining their fees:

  • Hourly Rates: Here, the lawn service just bills the client by the hour for the time it spends tending to the lawn. Lawn care companies often charge between $25 to $75 per hour or more, but this pricing is negotiable and is based on the specifics of the work to be done.
  • Square Footage Rates: Under this pricing structure, each square foot of a client's lawn that requires maintenance is factored into the final bill. The price per square foot is usually between $4.50 and $12.50.
  • Flat Rates: In this price structure, the client pays a flat rate, either for a single service or for a package of services that have been previously agreed upon by both parties. Pricing for flat-rate services normally ranges from $50 to $1,000, depending on the complexity of the service being provided.

Keep in mind that there are a variety of factors that could influence the final cost of your lawn care bill, including but not limited to:

  • The amount of labor required to provide the required services satisfactorily
  • The frequency of the required services
  • The landscaper's local reputation
  • The presence of fences, rocks, trees, steep hills, and other obstacles
  • The size of your lawn
  • The specific types and scope of services you require
  • The types of tools and equipment needed for the job
  • Your location within the city

Lawn care contractors in San Jose earn an average wage of $33,335 every year. The list below compares the average wages earned by these contractors per hour against the average hourly wages of lawn care contractors in other parts of California and also in other locations across the United States:

San Jose Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Francisco Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
San Diego Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Los Angeles Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Long Beach Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Phoenix Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Chicago Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Houston Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
New York City Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Philadelphia Lawn Care Contractors Average Hourly Wage
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is Included in Your Lawn Care Program?

Each lawn care firm provides a range of services within the landscaping industry, only the very big landscaping firms can afford to cover the entire field. Hence, it is important to determine that your lawn care firm offers the specific service you require before you sign off on the contractor. The most common services provided by lawn care firms in San Jose include:

  • Flower services
  • Garden cleanup and debris removal
  • Irrigation system installation
  • Irrigation system maintenance and repair
  • Landscape design
  • Lawn aeration
  • Lawn fertilization
  • Lawn mowing
  • Lawn seeding
  • Leaf blowing
  • Mulching
  • Pest control
  • Retaining wall installation
  • Shrub and hedge trimming
  • Shrub and tree planting
  • Tree pruning
  • Tree trimming
  • Weed control

These services are typically offered through two main types of lawn care programs, which are:

  • The Basic Lawn Care Service Package: All the services included in this bundle are geared toward making your lawn seem better from the curbside, but they don't do anything for its health. Services such as leaf collection, lawn mowing, pruning of bushes, trees, and hedges, and garden upkeep are typical components of such programs.
  • The Full-Service Lawn Maintenance Package: In most cases, the services included in this bundle are intended to boost both the lawn's visual attractiveness and its health. Therefore, full-service lawn management plans often consist of standard lawn care services plus tree pruning, lawn aeration and fertilization, weed control, grass disease remediation, and mulching, among others.

Beware of dishonest lawn care providers who try to entice you with low prices by selling you a package of services that aren't going to meet your long-term needs. In order to avoid future confusion, it is important to communicate your expectations for the lawn care work to be done and to verify that the nature and breadth of the services that will be included in your lawn care program will achieve those expectations. If you plan to use a lawn care provider on a regular basis, a service contract detailing the scope and pricing of these services, as well as any guarantees or promises given by the company, is essential.

Listed below are cost estimates for lawn care services that are typically included in lawn care programs offered in San Jose:

Garden cleanup and debris removal
$150 - $400
Hedge/Shrub trimming
$50 - $85 per hour
$0.10 - $0.30 per square foot
Landscape design
$90 - $110 per hour
Landscape installation
$40 - $60 per hour (labor only)
Lawn aeration
$50 - $250
Lawn fertilization
$80 - $150 per application
Lawn mowing & maintenance
$35 - $65 per visit
Lawn seeding
$350 – $1,000
Leaf removal
$55 - $300
$50 - $100 per hour
Retaining wall installation
$1,000 - $4,000
Sod installation
$0.90 - $1.75 per square foot
Sprinkler system installation
$2,000 - $4,250
Tree trimming/pruning
$300 - $750
$50 - $150

Do You Provide Organic Lawn Care Services?

The services of an organic lawn care company may be the best option if you have young children or dogs who spend a lot of time on your lawn or if you are concerned about preserving the natural environment. When it comes to lawn maintenance, "organic" means no synthetic chemicals or substances like pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides were used. Instead, the landscaper will employ organic materials and carbon-based compounds derived from animals and plants, such as compost, leaf mulch, potash, bone char, seaweed, worm castings, and manure, to maintain a healthy lawn.

If you use organic lawn care, you can help keep hazardous chemicals out of the air and off of your grass, as well as provide a safer outdoor space for your kids and pets. Organic lawn care services are more expensive than conventional products since they require more time and effort to implement. However, there are a number of benefits that outweigh the price increase, such as:

  • Better root growth
  • Healthier lawns
  • Improved grass quality
  • Reduced soil and water pollution
  • Reduced soil vulnerability to diseases and pests
  • Revitalized lawn ecosystem
  • Safer outdoor spaces for children and pets
  • Zero risk of over-application

Do You Offer a Warranty for Plants Installed?

When looking for reputable San Jose lawn care services, it's also vital to find out if the company provides warranties on its work, especially if it involves the planting of new vegetation or the laying down of new sod. You want to be sure that once planted in your yard, these plants, flowers, and seeds are guaranteed to grow and thrive according to the manufacturer's specifications. You should be wary of any lawn service that either doesn't or seems reluctant to offer guarantees on plants installed or other services provided.

Remember that the lawn care service or landscaper offering the warranty on your plants will establish the coverage terms and limitations. However, most San Jose lawn care professionals give plant warranties that are only good for a year and that comes with a list of requirements that the lawn's owner must meet during that time, such as:

  • Consistent adherence to the established watering schedule for all potted plants, blossoms, and seeds.
  • Specific fertilizers to be used
  • Mowing schedules, techniques, and acceptable mowing heights

However, damages caused to installed plants by children, pets, other animals, or by acts of vandalism or natural disasters are usually not covered in the warranties. Similarly, homeowners may violate their warranty by failing to provide adequate plant care and maintenance for the installed plants and flowers.

Consequently, it is recommended that you learn the specific terms and conditions of any plant warranties that your preferred lawn care professional provides to forestall any activities that can end up nullifying them.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Lawn Care Companies in San Jose?

Cuts, hand injuries, amputations, and chemical exposure are just some of the common workplace hazards faced by landscapers. You should ensure the San Jose landscapers working on your lawn are covered by insurance before resuming work with you. In the event that a lawn care professional is injured while working on your property, you are protected from financial and legal liabilities if the professional carries the appropriate insurance. Similarly, where the landscapers you hire cause damage to your property while working, the insurance firm will cover the necessary cost of repairs.

Take note that all San Jose landscapers who hold CSLB licenses are required by state law to carry workers' compensation insurance and keep a $15,000 surety bond in effect for the duration of their licenses. Similarly, landscapers who wish to maintain their DPR-issued credentials must meet specific financial responsibility alternatives, such as having liability insurance in the amounts of $5,000 per person/$10,000 per incident for bodily harm, and $5,000 for property damage.

Therefore, before allowing a lawn care business to begin work on your property, you should always request proof of insurance and bonding from the company. Make sure the landscapers you hire have general liability insurance that will pay for any accidents or damage to third parties that occur on your property.

You can get more information on the insurance, bond, and other applicable financial obligations that landscapers in San Jose have to comply with by contacting the state's Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) at (800) 321-2752 and (916) 445-4038 respectively.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Lawn Care Service in San Jose

You can file complaints against a fraudulent lawn care firm in San Jose with the Consumer Protection Unit of the Office of the District Attorney at 70 W. Hedding Street using this complaint form. Alternatively, you can complete the online complaint form or reach the office at (408) 792-2880​.

When looking for lawn care services in San Jose, you may encounter a shady landscaper or lawn care contractor, despite the fact that many lawn care organizations deliver their services competently and honestly. The victims of these cons are usually the naive people who own homes or other properties and are targeted by a variety of schemes, such as:

  • Utilizing low-ball lawn care package prices to entice customers, only to raise rates and costs once the contract has been signed.
  • Pretending to use solely organic lawn care products while charging extra, then actually utilizing non-organic products, is dishonest.
  • Delivering shoddy results, despite charging high prices.
  • Including extraneous clauses and other hidden costs in contracts without the customer's knowledge or consent and then persuading the client to sign them nonetheless.

Complaints involving contractor scams rank among the top ten complaints made by homeowners in the San Jose area every year. The city witnessed one of the country's largest contractor frauds in 2018, where William and Constance Gabriel, a married couple running a home improvement company in San Jose, scammed some homeowners of over $800,000. Note that by California law, contractors are not to ask for more than 10 percent of the contract cost or $1,000 - whichever is less, before beginning the work.

In addition, you should take the following precautions when considering a San Jose landscaper and lawn care company to hire:

  • Be suspicious of any landscaper that shows up at your home offering free or discounted lawn care and maintenance services
  • Ask around for recommendations on good landscapers and lawn care companies in the city. Find My Licensed Contractor, a service of the Contractor Services Licensing Board, or the BBB's website are two more reliable resources for locating qualified landscapers in your area.
  • Talk to at least three different lawn care companies in the city to compare prices before making your final hiring choice.
  • Make sure that you do your due diligence on any landscaper or lawn care company that you intend to hire. Look them up on the CSLB's Most Wanted list as well as on other third-party review websites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review.
  • Take caution if a lawn care provider says they can give you a price without first inspecting your grass.
  • Make sure that any landscaper you hire holds proper qualifications. If your required services will cost you $500 or more, make sure that the landscaper holds a valid state-issued license. Likewise, if the application of pesticides will be involved in these services, ensure that the landscaper has been properly licensed and certified to do this by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.
  • Ensure that your landscapers are properly insured and bonded, and always ask for and check references
  • Request a formal agreement before agreeing to pay for lawn care services, and read it carefully before signing it. Make sure it specifies the items to be used, the frequency with which they will be used, the cost per use, a payment plan, and the nature and scope of the services to be delivered.
  • Discontinue negotiation with landscapers that request full payment for their services upfront
  • It is crucial to keep copies of any paperwork pertaining to your lawn care program, including contracts, warranties, and other legal documents.

You can also report matters concerning unsatisfactory lawn care services and fraudulent landscapers to the California State Licensing Board (CSLB) by contacting the agency at (800) 321-2752. Alternatively, you can file a complaint on the agency's website. Note that matters that specifically involve pesticide applications can be reported to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) at (916) 324-4100.